Why Some Cancers Feast on Fat
While most cancer cells use sugar in the body to grow and divide, some types prefer fat cells. A new study from Harvard Medical School shows that certain types of cancer, including acute myeloid leukemia and prostate cancer, have low levels of a protein that regulates fat burning, causing the cancer cells to seek and use fat as fuel.
This finding could help researchers develop new cancer treatments that work by starving cancer cells of the fuel they need. Earlier studies showed that some cancers switch from sugar to fat, but little was known about the process. In the new study, researchers increased levels of the protein—called PHD3—to normal levels in laboratory animals, causing the cancer cells to die.
More research is needed to determine why certain types of cancer depend on fat. Scientists also are trying to learn more about what it is that fat cells provide to growing tumors and sugar doesn't.
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