UCLA researchers position glucose transporter as a target for pancreatic, prostate cancer

UCLA's Ernest Wright

Promising research conducted by Dr. Ernest Wright and Dr. Jorge Barrio, both of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, show two types of sodium-dependent glucose transports known as SGLT1 and SGLT2 are actively involved in glucose uptake into tumors. And that makes them prime targets for drug investigators.

The conventional approach for interrupting the great metabolic demands of tumors in importing glucose has been to target the passive glucose transports, known as GLUTS, long believed to be the primary delivery method. In fact these glucose transporters remain part of the screening process for imaging and diagnosing cancer in the clinic. For pancreatic and prostate cancer however, its reliability is poor and not used as a concrete diagnosis in these patients.

Wright and Barrio instead turned their attention to another type of glucose transporter, and over a two-year study have described their importance: "GLUT imaging probes have in the past shown to be of limited effectiveness on these types of tumors," Barrio said. "The specific radioactive imaging probe we implemented for SGLTs on these tumors holds tremendous promise to diagnose and treat pancreatic and prostate cancers."

UCLA's Jorge Barrio

Learning where SGLTs are expressed in human cancers led the researchers to find that SGLT2 is specifically abundant in pancreatic and prostate adenocarcinomas. A PET imaging technique also developed at UCLA, along with a mouse model to simulate the two types of tumours showed SGLT2 lights up in these tumours and that their function is indeed crucial for the cancers growth and survival.

SGLT1 and SGLT2 glucose transporters have been extensively studied in glucose uptake implicated in diseases such as diabetes; however, this study shows for the first time SGLT2's role in cancer. The work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As FDA-approved SGLT inhibitors are currently in use for patients with diabetes, they hope to conduct clinical trials soon. They further aim to understand glucose delivery to tumors via SGLTs and the efficacy of SGLT-inhibitors on their ability to reduce pancreatic and prostate cancer--both significantly responsible for contributing to two of the top cancer-related deaths in the United States.

- here's the report from SciCasts
- read the research abstract