Scientists have long understood the importance of the mitochondria, a membrane-enclosed organelle found in most eukaryotic cells. Now, the science community is now recognizing the mitochondria as the new Achilles heel of breast cancer. Studies are showing that there are now some new goals in dealing with breast, and other types of tumors.
The mitochondria are responsible for producing energy in cells. This works in a negative fashion when discussing cancer cells, because their power is amplified by up to 5 times the capacity of normal cells.
Says Dr. Michael Lisanti, of the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, ”We and others have now shown that cancer is a ‘parasitic disease’ that steals energy from the host – your body.” Dr. Lisanti and his team have given us the first bit of in vivo evidence that breast cancer cells engage in enhanced mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to create large quantities of energy. He explains, this is the first time we’ve shown in human breast tissue that cancer cell mitochondria are calling the shots and could ultimately be manipulated in our favour.” You can also check out some other oncologists in Pennsylvania doing great work!
Lisanti’s research also provides support for the notion that utilizing a mitochondrial inhibitor to block such activity can actually shrink the growth of a tumor, as well as resistance to chemotherapy.
Dr. Lisanti goes on to say that, “Metabolically, the drug Metformin prevents cancer cells from using their mitochondria, induces glycolysis and lactate production, and shifts cancer cells toward the conventional ‘Warburg Effect’. The idea is that this new method will essentially starve a cancer cell, hopefully to the point that it dies. And the hope is that these discoveries will drastically change the way we treat cancer patients, and foster new strategies and techniques.
“We believe that targeting mitochondrial metabolism has broad implications for both cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, and could be exploited in the pursuit of personalized cancer medicine,” says Dr. Lisanti.