Cancer metabolism symposium highlights hot area in cancer research

| Written by Jessica Moore
Tak Maria Jorge

The third Cancer Metabolism Symposium held at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) June 22-23, 2016, attracted a full house of attendees from across San Diego. Its success likely results from the impressive roster of speakers invited by organizers Jorge Moscat, Ph.D., professor and director of the Cancer Metabolism and Signaling Networks Program, and Maria Diaz-Meco, Ph.D., also a professor in that program. The presenters included numerous thought leaders in the field from such prestigious institutions as the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The aim of research on cancer metabolism is simple—to find ways to starve tumors of the fuels and building blocks they need to grow. This strategy is gaining attention (see this recent New York Times feature) because of the increasing evidence that cancer cells obtain and use nutrients differently than normal cells. Plus, there appear to be a few common ways in which cancer cells’ metabolism becomes deranged, making it a much simpler target than oncogenic mutations, which tumor cells accumulate almost exponentially.

Several new drugs that interfere with metabolism have shown promise in clinical trials for numerous types of cancer. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot to learn. Since tumor cells rely on the same metabolic pathways as normal cells, researchers must pinpoint cancer’s weaknesses—the enzymes and nutrients on which cancer cells rely far more than normal cells. Many of these differences were discussed at the symposium, opening doors for new ways to stop cancer.

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