Breast cancer cells gorge on Sugar.

Breast Cancer Campaign Scientists at the University of Southampton have found that breast cancer cells leach sugar from the blood stream and have found a new way to target cells providing an alternative treatment for chemotherapy resistant breast cancer.

The treatment exploits a novel link, identified by the scientists, between sugar processing in the cells and their growth and division, offering an alternative to chemotherapy as it targets active breast cancer cells and not normal cells.

A key feature of cancer cells is they gorge on sugar from the blood, processing it as a fuel supply which triggers CtBPs (C-terminal binding proteins) to bind together, forming pairs known as dimers that enable cells to grow and multiply out of control. Dr Jeremy Blaydes and his research team developed a number of chemicals designed to block CtBP dimers from forming. They then selected the most effective chemical, CP61, which they are now developing in the lab for use as a breast cancer treatment.

According to Dr. Blaydes: “Because this is an entirely new approach to treatment, the drugs we are developing could be effective against breast cancers that have become resistant to current chemotherapies. Unfortunately, despite great improvements in breast cancer treatment in recent years, chemotherapy-resistance eventually happens in around one in five cases (20 per cent), and every year in the UK around 12,000 women still die from the disease. To overcome this resistance, innovative treatments that use new approaches to stop cancer from growing are desperately needed.

“What makes this discovery even more exciting as a potential treatment is that CtBPs are mostly only active in the cancer cells, so blocking this ‘sweet tooth’ should cause less damage to normal cells and fewer side effects than existing treatments.

“This work is at an early stage in the laboratory but it is really exciting as it has the potential to deliver a completely new kind of cancer drug, which could be available within 10 years.”


Charles N. Birts, Sharandip K. Nijjar, Charlotte A. Mardle, Franciane Hoakwie, Patrick J. Duriez, Jeremy P. Blaydes, Ali Tavassoli. A cyclic peptide inhibitor of C-terminal binding protein dimerization links metabolism with mitotic fidelity in breast cancer cells. Chemical Science, 2013; 4 (8): 3046 DOI: 10.1039/c3sc50481f

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