Scientists discovered a new approach in turning the macrophages to competitively fight with tumor cells for sugar to take them down, thereby reducing the chance of metastasis.
A Study On Macrophages
It hasn’t been until a few months back scientists discovered how important macrophages are when it comes to cancer therapy. To those who are not familiar with macrophages, they are a type of white blood cell which engulf and digest the foreign bodies, cell debris, microbes, antigens, etc. So basically they eat up things that don’t suppose to belong in a cell. Scientists from Vlaams institute of Biotechnology (VIB) & University of Leuven (KU Leuven) had discovered a crucial role played by macrophages in promoting the cancerous cell.
Yes, it might sound little strange at first, even did the team took the obligation of entire study to believe their discovery. The armed guards of our immune system have a vital role in channeling the blood vessel formation of cancerous cells. These cells keep on dividing out of control and spread to other parts of the body. Though the macrophages fight against cancerous cells, they also help in angiogenesis.
But the good news is that these macrophages can be attenuated to work according to our action of interests, which here is a specific biochemical process by which the ability of cancerous cells to spread are being restrained. The macrophages can be chemically modified to steal sugar from the tumor cells, thereby ensuring a tight packaging of the tumor cells, preventing it from spreading to other cells.
The scientific run through
In order to understand the depth of working, scientists used a genetic approach to modifying the macrophages. They silenced the REDD1 gene of macrophages which simulates the glycolysis process of the cell. At the same time, feeding sugar to the tumor cells had a negative impact. Those tumor cells received extra sugar actually exhibited a hypermetabolic activity, thereby speeding up the respective function of tumor cells. But when macrophages are simulated for a glucose, there actually happened a competition between macrophages and tumor cells. Without a consistent glucose supply tumor cells have decreased metabolisms and reduced angiogenesis, thereby forming a sturdy structure which has the least possibility to spread to other organs. If there is no competition for glucose (sugar), as usual, the tumor cells take up more of them and contribute to angiogenesis, which helps the tumor spread faster.
Scope & Application
A small change to one of our defender cells can reduce the chance of tumor growth nearly by 50%. So scientists are hardly working on making the macrophages a sugar stealer thereby making it a competitor for sugar with tumor cells. Also, they are trying to enhance its stealing ability such that the tumor cells would lose with macrophages in battle and thereby give up its growth.
On the light of macrophages, scientists have identified that one of the current therapeutic molecules may not be a good choice anymore. The mTOR inhibitors are a class of drug that partially seemed working on human patients by reducing tumor growth. But a lab test suggests that their activity might disrupt the macrophages and thereby indirectly promote tumor growth. They are also looking to dive into further studies to tie down the cancer!
Mathias Wenes, Min Shang, Mario Di Matteo, Jermaine Goveia, Rosa Martín-Pérez, Jens Serneels, Hans Prenen, Bart Ghesquière, Peter Carmeliet, Massimiliano Mazzone. Macrophage Metabolism Controls Tumor Blood Vessel Morphogenesis and Metastasis. Cell Metabolism, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.09.008