Dr. Kim Su-yeol’s research team publishes an article in Seminars in Cancer Biology... Anticipation of new anticancer strategies targeting fatty acid metabolism
Research results that cancer cell energy metabolism is absolutely dependent on fatty acids have been published.
The National Cancer Center’s Cancer Metabolism Research Team (Lee Ho, Woo Sang-myeong, Jang Hyeon-cheol, and Kim Su-yeol) has demonstrated in experiments that, unlike normal cells, all cancer cells use fatty acids in metabolic processes. This finding is expected to shift the paradigm of cancer research and become the basis for a new anticancer strategy.
This study is drawing attention after presenting a new concept for cancer cell-specific metabolism and laying the groundwork for the development of new anticancer drugs. The research team published their paper in the latest issue of the world-renowned Seminars in Cancer Biology (Impact Factor 17.012).
The team found that cancer cells produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from oxygen in the mitochondria using just fatty acids, unlike normal cells, which mainly rely on glucose in the energy metabolism process. They also confirmed that when fatty acids are blocked in the presence of glucose, ATP drops sharply and only cancer cells are killed.
In an animal experiment using mouse cancer models, it was found that cancer growth in a high-fat diet condition was five times higher than that in a low-fat diet condition (high-carbohydrate diet) with the same balanced calorie diet.
The process revealed by this study was named the “Kim Effect”, in a reference to the “Warburg Effect,” which has been the term employed to date to describe the basis of cancer metabolism.
While the Warburg effect, a theory on cancer metabolism, is limited to anabolism (a metabolic process where macromolecules are synthesized from small molecules), this study found that the catabolism of cancer absolutely depends only on fatty acids, which is different from the existing theory.
The Warburg Effect, discovered by Dr. Warburg, refers to a metabolic pathway that converts glucose into lactic acid that is abnormally activated even in cancer cells in oxygen-rich conditions. Dr. Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1931 for discovering that all tumors use glucose to make lactic acid.
Since then, a number of studies have shown that glucose contributes to the generation of biological building blocks and that it is a crucial nutrient for anabolism in cancer.
The Kim Effect, on the other hand, is an observation that all cancer cells are absolutely dependent on fatty acids for their energy metabolism; that is, cancer cells obtain energy solely by burning fat in the blood. Obesity was found to be associated with a surge in cancer, and a carbohydrate-based diet served to reduce tumor growth to one-fifth the size of the tumors in mouse models of cancer on a high-fat diet. This new finding suggests that preventing fat burning may produce clinical benefits in cancer treatment.
Dr. Kim Su-yeol (Chief Researcher, Department of Molecular Cancer Biology) who led the study said, “The results of this study, which proved that cancer cell metabolism has a different mechanism from that of normal cells, suggest that preventing fat burning has clinical benefits in cancer treatment, thereby presenting a basis for breaking through the limitations of conventional anticancer therapies. We’re conducting additional research for clinical applications. I hope that the results of this study will contribute to the development of new anticancer drugs and therapies that regulate fat metabolism.”
Meanwhile, the research team is preparing for a clinical trial to devise an anticancer strategy to inhibit fatty acid oxidation in pancreatic cancer patients. They have been invited to give an oral presentation at the Keystone Symposia to be held in the United States on September 5 where they will announce their research results and clinical research plans.