Cancer treatments may have a new target after researchers found a method to shut down cancer cells' energy source and thereby shut down cancer itself, according to new research.
The energy comes from mitochondria, which act as power plants inside cells.
When a cancer cell divides, so do its mitochondria, and scientists found that blocking this mitochondrial division exhausted the cells, which then died.
Researchers said the new discovery could lead to generalized cancer treatments, though the study focused on lung cancer cells.
This could be a potential new Achilles' heel for cancer cells, Dr. Jalees Rehman, lead study author and associate professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a statement. The cell division cycle comes to a halt if the mitochondria are prevented from dividing. This new therapy may be especially useful in cancers which become resistant to conventional chemotherapy that directly targets the cycle.
The study was published in the FASEB Journal on Feb. 13.
The researcher group froze the production of new mitochondria and used the technique to shrink the size of lung cancer tumors in mice.
Researchers were quick to warn that this is not a cure. Adjusting the ability of mitochondria to divide did not rid mice of tumors, but shrank lung tumors. Plus, tumors continued to use high levels of glucose, which fast-growing cells use as fuel to grow, according to the study.