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Cancer Cells Hijack Glucose, Alter Immune Cells

A new study published in Nature Immunology suggests a potential metabolic pathway for cancer treatment.

When cancer cells compete with immune cells for glucose, the cancer wins. As a result, the immune T cells are not healthy and don’t have the weapons to kill the cancer.

“If we have a way to manipulate the metabolic pathway, the T cells may be healthier,” said senior author Weiping Zou, MD, PhD, Charles B. de Nancrede Professor of Surgery, Immunology and Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“We know that if we provide glucose, the tumor uses it,” Zou said. “One question we have is, can we make T cells resistant to glucose restriction? In our study, we define a mechanism that we can use as a model to test this.”

The researchers found that T cells that have stem cell-like properties are tied to longer survival and high tumor killing capacity in human cancer. They propose altering the cancer environmental metabolic pathway to allow the T cells to be largely functional. If successful, this would allow the T cells to kill the cancer cells.

This article was adapted from information provided by University of Michigan Health System.