Researchers from the Swiss university of Basel have discovered that tumours are able to adapt to a lack of oxygen, explaining why they keep growing even after initially successful treatment.
A research team led by the university’s Gerhard Christofori writes in the journal “Cell Reports” that tumours are able to switch from an oxygen-based energy source to one not reliant on oxygen, rendering ineffective medications meant to cut off the supply.
Cancer cells respond to signals triggering the growth of blood vessels, which supply the tumour with oxygen and nutrients. Certain medications block this process and can stop the growth of tumours for a while. However, they eventually grow resistant and continue to grow despite the treatment.
The cellular process observed by the researchers – known as glycolysis - releases lactic acid which is delivered to those tumour cells that still have enough oxygen. They, in turn, can use the lactic acid and oxygen to produce energy and continue to grow.
The discovery could lead to new cancer treatments which not only block the oxygen supply to tumours but also the glycolysis process. The researchers were able to prove in the lab that tumour growth can be stopped using such a therapy.
swissinfo.ch and agencies