Canadian researchers reveal they might be able to stop cancer from becoming drug resistant by restricting lipid synthesis
Scientists believe that cancer treatments can prove to be more effective if they simultaneously restrict LUR1, FASN and other components that could lead to the importing of lipids
Cancer is one of those diseases that does not have a definite cure yet. Despite the rigorous treatments, many forms of cancer continue to spread in the body. This happens because cancer cells change their structure and become resistant to cancer medication. To overcome this problem, various scientists from different parts of Canada conducted a study where they investigated the way cancer adapts its metabolism to potentially overcome the therapies.
Factors that help cancer grow
The study published in the journal Nature on 1 June, 2020, is the first study to investigate the changes in the cancer cells which help it to survive even in the absence of nutrients such as fat molecules and lipids. These nutrients are necessary for the formation of the outer envelope of the cancer cells.
In cancer patients, there is an increased level of fatty acid synthase (FASN) which is an enzyme that helps in the formation of larger lipid molecules. These lipid molecules help cancer cells form their outer envelope.
This study aimed at finding a drug which could inhibit FASN, thus restricting the growth of cancer cells and eventually improving the prognosis of the cancer patient.
The Canadian study
In order to block the enzyme FASN, the researchers removed the FASN-coding gene from a human cell line (cells grown from human cells in the lab). The scientists also used the genome-editing tool CRISPR to delete around 18,000 genes which could help in lipid production in the absence of FASN gene.
However, as the cells started starving of fat in the absence of these genes, hundreds of other genes turned into essential genes. Out of all these new essential genes, there was a gene called C12orf49 (named so due to its location on chromosome 12) which switched on a set of genes that were involved in the importing of lipids.
This gene deploys the cells to suck up the dietary cholesterol and other lipids molecules from their surroundings. Because of its actions, the gene was later renamed as the gene LUR1 which stands for lipid uptake regulator 1.
Conclusion of the study
The study revealed that even in the absence of lipid making enzyme, the cancer cells gobble up lipids from their surroundings to make sure that they have enough lipids to grow in the body. The study further shows the importance of lipids in the growth of cancer.
The scientists believe that the cancer treatments can prove to be more effective if they simultaneously restrict LUR1, FASN and other components that could lead to the importing of lipids.
This combination therapy can prevent drug resistance in cancer patients as in this situation the cancer cells will have to tackle both the situations at the same time, which is extremely difficult.
The scientists believe that once they know how cancer cells adapt to the changes around it, they will be able to target the cancer cells more efficiently.
For more information, read our article on Cancer.
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