Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Low oxygen levels could drive cancer growth, research suggests

Date:
May 3, 2012
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
Low oxygen levels in cells may be a primary cause of uncontrollable tumor growth in some cancers, according to a new study. The authors' findings run counter to widely accepted beliefs that genetic mutations are responsible for cancer growth.

University of Georgia Professor Ying Xu and his colleagues analyzed information from microarray chips, which are small glass slides containing large amounts of gene material, and have found that low oxygen levels in cells may be a primary cause of uncontrollable tumor growth in some cancers.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Georgia

Low oxygen levels in cells may be a primary cause of uncontrollable tumor growth in some cancers, according to a new University of Georgia study. The authors' findings run counter to widely accepted beliefs that genetic mutations are responsible for cancer growth.

If hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in cells, is proven to be a key driver of certain types of cancer, treatment plans for curing the malignant growth could change in significant ways, said Ying Xu, Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

The research team analyzed samples of messenger RNA data-also called transcriptomic data-from seven different cancer types in a publicly available database. They found that long-term lack of oxygen in cells may be a key driver of cancer growth. The study was published in the early online edition of the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology.

Previous studies have linked low oxygen levels in cells as a contributing factor in cancer development, but not as the driving force for cancer growth. High incidence rates of cancer around the world cannot be explained by chance genetic mutations alone, Xu said. He added that bioinformatics, which melds biology and computational science, has allowed researchers to see cancer in a new light. Gene-level mutations may give cancer cells a competitive edge over healthy cells, but the proposed new cancer growth model does not require the presence of common malfunctions such as a sudden proliferation of oncogenes, precursors to cancer cells.

"Cancer drugs try to get to the root -- at the molecular level -- of a particular mutation, but the cancer often bypasses it," Xu said. "So we think that possibly genetic mutations may not be the main driver of cancer."

Much of cancer research so far has focused on designing drug treatments that counteract genetic mutations associated with a particular type of cancer. In their study, the researchers analyzed data downloaded from the Stanford Microarray Database via a software program to detect abnormal gene expression patterns in seven cancers: breast, kidney, liver, lung, ovary, pancreatic and stomach. The online database allows scientists to examine information from microarray chips, which are small glass slides containing large amounts of gene material.

Xu relied on the gene HIF1A as a biomarker of the amount of molecular oxygen in a cell. All seven cancers showed increasing amounts of HIF1A, indicating decreasing oxygen levels in the cancer cells.

Low oxygen levels in a cell interrupt the activity of oxidative phosphorylation, a term for the highly efficient way that cells normally use to convert food to energy. As oxygen decreases, the cells switch to glycolysis to produce their energy units, called ATP. Glycolysis is a drastically less efficient way to obtain energy, and so the cancer cells must work even harder to obtain even more food, specifically glucose, to survive. When oxygen levels dip dangerously low, angiogenesis, or the process of creating new blood vessels, begins. The new blood vessels provide fresh oxygen, thus improving oxygen levels in the cell and tumor and slowing the cancer growth-but only temporarily.

"When a cancer cell gets more food, it grows; this makes the tumor biomass bigger and even more hypoxic. In turn, the energy-conversion efficiency goes further down, making the cells even more hungry and triggering the cells to get more food from blood circulation, creating a vicious cycle. This could be a key driver of cancer," Xu said.

Xu explained that this new cancer-growth model could help explain why many cancers become drug resistant so quickly-often within three to six months. He stressed the importance of testing the new model through future experimental cancer research. If the model holds, researchers will need to search for methods to prevent hypoxia in cells in the first place, which could result in a sea change in cancer treatment.

Additional authors of this study include Juan Cui, Xizeng Mao and Victor Olman, all of UGA, and Phil Hastings of Baylor College of Medicine. Xu also has a joint appointment with Jilin University in China.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. The original article was written by Kathleen Raven. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Cui, X. Mao, V. Olman, P. J. Hastings, Y. Xu. Hypoxia and miscoupling between reduced energy efficiency and signaling to cell proliferation drive cancer to grow increasingly faster. Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1093/jmcb/mjs017

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Low oxygen levels could drive cancer growth, research suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503194219.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2012, May 3). Low oxygen levels could drive cancer growth, research suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503194219.htm
University of Georgia. "Low oxygen levels could drive cancer growth, research suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503194219.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming doctors for the low number of children being vaccinated for HPV. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins