In order to divide and migrate to distant sites, cancer cells require specific nutrients and energy to build all of the components necessary for making new cells. A number of researchers at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre are currently studying how cancer cells meet the energy and resource requirements to sustain the needs of rapidly growing tumours, which is the study of cellular metabolism, or more precisely, oncometabolism. Interestingly, how cancer cells generate energy is quite different from the workings of normal cells.
In particular, cancer cells rely on high levels of a sugar called glucose and the amino acid glutamine as fuels to sustain rapid growth. This principle is exploited in clinical settings through the use of 18F-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) to image tumours with increased glucose uptake.
Recent work by members of the oncometabolism axis has identified key regulators of cancer cell metabolism, and has shown that these deregulated metabolic pathways are most strongly associated with cancers that fail treatment and are metastatic. In addition, there is evidence that metastatic cancer cells may require special metabolic needs to leave the primary site, depending on which tissue the metastatic cells migrate to.
The principal objective of the oncometabolism axis is to foster a comprehensive and multidisciplinary research program to exploit this knowledge and develop novel strategies to block the key metabolic pathways necessary for growth and survival of cancer cells.
The past and future successes achieved by the oncometabolism axis rely on the seamless integration of basic research that is focused on understanding the fundamental regulators of metabolism with translational research aimed at developing preclinical animal and human cancer-derived models to test therapeutic strategies.
Team Leader: Dr. Vincent Giguère