In 2016, there will be more than 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States, and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths. Now, for the first time, scientists have identified the pathways that allow cancers to spread and that could lead to a breakthrough for new treatments.
It’s not the cancer itself, but the metastasis, the spreading of the cancer to other parts of the body that often proves lethal. That’s why discovering the metabolic pathways by which it spreads will save lives.
Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., PhD, an associate professor at Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern told Ivanhoe,“Developing drugs that would inhibit that process would be completely transformative in the lives of cancer patients.”
The Children’s Medical Center Research team at UT Southwestern found a different form of metabolism within the cancer cells that allow them to live and grow while spreading away from their original location.
“The metabolism of a cancer cell is different from the metabolism of a normal cell,” explained Dr. DeBerardinis.
The cancer cells they study come from living cancer patients. While most treatments are directed towards specific tumors, drugs developed from this research will target the pathways, like water putting out a fire, to stop the deadly spread of cancer.
“The most exciting thing by far is that this could be a new way to curtail metastasis in cancer patients,” said Dr. DeBerardinis.
That could someday save thousands of lives. The researchers say more study will need to be done to test the role of the pathway in living organisms, before new drugs can be developed.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Don Wall, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Matt Goldschmidt, Editor; Mark Montgomery, Videographer.