Changing the way that tumours metabolize sugar can stall their growth.
When cells convert glucose into energy and molecular building blocks, the last step in the metabolic pathway is catalysed by an enzyme called pyruvate kinase. Dividing cells, such as cancer cells, contain a form of this enzyme called PKM2. Matthew Vander Heiden at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and his colleagues found that small-molecule activators of PKM2 impaired tumour formation in mice bearing human cancer cells. Tumours developed later and remained smaller in treated mice than in untreated controls.
The activators bind to PKM2 at a previously unknown site. The authors suggest that, in so doing, the activators alter tumour metabolism in such a way as to deplete growth-promoting compounds produced earlier in the pathway.
Nature Chem. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.1060 (2012)