Metabolism, microenvironment and metastasis

Ever since the 1920s it has been known that cancer cells have abnormal metabolic activity. The cells consume large amounts of glucose, fats and amino acids, and produce energy by converting glucose into lactate. However, one has not yet succeeded in developing drugs to treat cancer based on the blockade of these abnormal metabolic processes. In recent years, major technological advances in biochemical analysis techniques and molecular biology have been made, making it possible to study the relationship between cancer and cellular energy production in great detail. In this way, new knowledge has been made on the metabolic reactions that cancer cells depend on and how these reactions enable cancer cells to adapt to the challenging microenvironment of a tumor (such as adaptations to low pH and low oxygen). This has led to the development of new potential drugs that block the metabolic reactions that cancer cells are particularly dependent on. In addition, we have seen that cancer cells that have the ability to break free from tumors to metastasize to other organs have metabolic properties that distinguish them from the «original» cells in the tumor.

Researchers at the MR Cancer group therefore work to identify metabolic differences between metastatic and non-metastatic cells, with the purpose of finding potential metabolic targets for drugs that inhibit and kill the metastatic cells. We have seen that the metabolic profiles in tumors can predict whether the tumor has metastasized or not (read more about this here), which shows a clear correlation between metabolism, microenvironment and metastasis. In collaboration with Karolinska Institute in Sweden, we also found a metabolic enzyme, CHPT1, which contributes to the formation of metastases in preclinical disease models (read more here).

PI: Tone F. Bathen, NTNU.