An enzyme that normally helps break down stored fats is capable of making cancer cells more malignant, hs been observed by scientists.
Experts at The Scripps Research Institute identified the enzyme, called monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) as a key player responsible for the aggressive behaviour of cancer cells.
Benjamin Cravatt, chair of the Scripps Research Department of Chemical Physiology and corresponding author of the study said: "Historically, research has focused on the mechanisms leading to cancer formation and therapies have focused on taking out cancer cells. But here we were looking for pathways that lead to cancer aggressiveness."
Daniel Nomura, a postdoc in Cravatt's lab, added: "This is one of the largest known enzyme families, comprising about one percent of all proteins in a cell."
Cravatt, who is also a member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research, added: "It is not only necessary but sufficient for the aggressive phenotype."
In addition to Cravatt and Nomura, co-authors of the study also include Jonathan Long, Sherry Niessen, and Heather Hoover from Scripps Research and Shu-Wing Ng from Harvard Medical School.
The study, entitled "Monoacylglycerol Lipase Regulates a Fatty Acid Network that Promotes Cancer Pathogenesis, was published in the journal Cell.