Discovery: Sugar plus two drugs may equal cancer cell suicide

Scientists in Japan and California have created a lethal recipe of just three ingredients that make the cells of some types of cancers kill themselves. They ply the tumors with a special sugar that makes the cells vulnerable and then assault them with two drugs that trigger a self-destruct sequence.

The finding, highlighted in the journal Cancer Research online, could lead to more effective, localized cancer treatments that avoid damaging healthy tissue. Researchers saw promise in vitro and then in animal studies, and are trying to initiate a formal clinical trial using the combination.

So far, the concept induced cell death in leukemia, hepatocarcinoma and lung, breast, prostate and cervical cancer cells, the research team said. But other cancers are resistant, they noted.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego and Kyushu University Medical School first give cancer cells a modified glucose or sugar molecule known as 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG), which cancer cells find appetizing. Unlike other sugar molecules, this one prevents the cancer cells from growing and leaves them vulnerable to cell death by opening access to an internal protein. Exposure to two cancer drugs--known together as ABT-263/737--forces the internal protein to begin initiating cell death.

Importantly, only cells primed by 2-DG and the two drugs died, leaving healthier cells intact. The body's blood brain barrier also protects the brain's highly glycolytic cells from ABT-263-737, preventing them from migrating there and doing damage.

- here's the release
- check out the paper abstract