Colorectal cancer is the third most common non-skin cancer. It takes the lives of thousands of people a year in the developed countries and an uncounted number in those with less efficient medical systems.
The colon is the last part of the digestive system. Because tumours often go undetected until they are embedded in the gut lining, they are often advanced cancers before symptoms alert a person to a problem.
Researchers at Case West Reserve School of Medicine have found that about one-third of colorectal cells contain a genetic mutation. The mutated cells are big users of the amino acid glutamine and when deprived of it, simply die.
Head of the research team, Zhenghe John Wang is quoted below:
"In layman's terms, we discovered that colon cancers with PIK3CA oncogenic mutations are addicted to glutamine, a particular nutrient for cancer cells. We also demonstrated that these cancers can be starved to death by depriving glutamine with drugs." Science Daily
Evidence of the "starving the cells of glutamine" treatment is strong enough that clinical trials are already being planned.
Our bodies make glutamine and use it for many functions, including bolstering the immune system. Some research points to this amino acid can make cancer therapy more effective. The seeming contrast in results is likely because only one third of the colon cancer cells are vulnerable to a reduction in glutamine. Cancer is an umbrella term that in fact, covers many different types of disease.
Research done last year at Case University examining the molecular differences in colon cancer tumours showed unique mutations in African Americans who have a higher rate of the disease than those of Western European heritage. With the availability of powerful computers, 20,000 genes with examined when comparing the makeup of tumours removed from patients at the University Medical School.
University of Maryland
Case Western Reserve School of Medicine
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