A molecule - simply called 968 - can starve cancer cells and the tumors they produce, new research has said.
The key to this research is the amino acid glutamine. Researchers have long believed that starving cancer cells of glutamine, which cancer cells require in larger quantities than normal cells, would help fight some cancers.
Now, they have discovered a molecule that does the job: Dubbed 968 by investigators, this proof of concept molecule binds to the enzyme glutaminase to inhibit cancer growth by blocking the cancer cells' utilization of glutamine.
Cancer cells demand a tremendous amount of energy, says Richard Cerione, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical biology. The finding could lead to a new class of drugs, capable of halting cancer progression without harming normal cell growth, he said.
After discovering that 968 inhibited glutaminase and effectively shrunk tumor cells, Cerione and his research team tested the molecule to understand its effects on non-cancerous cells.
"We have effectively stopped the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab without affecting normal mammary cells," said Cerione, who is now investigating the impact of 968 on other forms of cancer, including prostate, ovarian and pancreatic cell lines.
The new research has been published by Cornell University researchers in the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Arts and Sciences.