It is often the case that an ovarian cancer diagnosis reveals that the tumour has already spread to nearby tissue. Now, scientists have discovered a potential way to cut off the energy supply fuelling this invasive stage of ovarian cancer.
“No systematic study,” says senior study author Ernst Lengyel, who is a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the university, “of the signalling pathways initiated by human cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts has been performed.”
He and his colleagues report their recent findings in a paper that now features in the journal Cell Metabolism.
“We think this could have significant clinical implications,” claims Prof. Lengyel.
Ovarian cancer and metastasis
The ovaries are female hormone-producing glands that make eggs. Each woman has two ovaries; one on either side of the uterus. About once per month, a mature egg carrying the biological mother’s genes travels through a fallopian tube to the uterus.
There, it is made ready for fertilisation by sperm, which carries the biological father’s genes. A fertilised egg then becomes a foetus that has genes from both parents.
Once the cancer has penetrated this ‘energy-dense fat pad,’ it speeds up. The process of spread, which begins with tissue invasion, is called metastasis and is complex and multistaged.
The next stage is when tumour cells travel through the bloodstream and lymph system to set up new tumours in other parts of the body.
Mobilising energy supplies
They did this by growing ovarian cancer cells and fibroblasts together in the laboratory and then using a method called ‘quantitative phosphoproteomics’ to monitor their ‘cellular crosstalk.’
Blocking energy supply
The researchers suggest that there could be a way to halt or slow the invasion process. They found that a signalling pathway called p38α MAPK activated glycogen mobilization in the cancer-associated fibroblasts.
They also revealed that disrupting the enzymes involved in this pathway, or blocking the signalling pathways that trigger glycogen metabolism in the cancer cells, “reduced metastasis.”
They suggest that this could be a “therapeutic strategy” for reducing “abdominally metastasising” tumours following surgery.
“This is the first time that the role of glycogen in cancer metastasis has been thoroughly investigated, “said Prof. Ernst Lengyel.
Source: Medical News Today