What Causes Cancer In the Kidneys—And Why Sugars Could Hold Answers to a Cure

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Sep 13, 2014 04:13 PM EDT

Renal Cell Carcinoma (Photo : Wikimedia)

As vital organs for the removal of waste in the body, the kidneys are two necessities of life that are often underappreciated until they're in danger of being lost. And as more and more research in oncology leads physicians to believe that cancer is caused by outside factors, more than ones' complex genetic makeup, individuals are left to look for other treatments that go beyond the realm of chemotherapy.

As the most common form of kidney cancer, renal carcinoma is particularly difficult to treat, which makes it extremely dangerous in most patients.

"Chemotherapy is generally not effective for treating kidney cancer" Dr. John 'Al' Copland, with the Mayo Clinic says. "When tumors are no longer affected by available therapies, the cancer is able to grow and spread, becoming untreatable, leading to death."

Though some treatments such as cryoablation, radiofrequency ablation, and tumor excision are effective in some cases, the widespread complications of the difficult-to-treat cancer has led researchers to find its cause, and with it, a possible cure.

"Recent large-scale sequencing analyses revealed the loss of several chromatin remodeling enzymes in Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC), indicating that epigenetic perturbations are probably important contributors to the natural history of the disease" lead researcher and cell biologist, Bo Li says.

Publishing their work in this week's issue of the journal Nature, Li and his colleagues looked to the epigenetic causes of the cancer and the physiological responses it caused. Finding that the kidney cancer is characterized by elevated glycogen levels important in fat deposition, the researchers looked to the natural component of fats for a clue; sugars.

After a wide array of metabolic profiling and analyses, the team decided to take an integrative approach against the cancer and found that one important gluconeogenic enzyme was at the center of the cancer's pathway. The enzyme, nicknamed FBP1, is an important protein in the breakdown of sugars named fructose-1,6-biphosphatase.  And after examining over 600 ccRCC tumors, the team found that the loss of the functional enzyme in cancerous cells allowed for their growth to go unchecked.

Distinguishing this naturally-occurring tumor suppressor apart from others, the researchers bring hope to a growing number of patients with renal carcinoma, and are hopeful that this discovery will lead to an effective treatment of the lethal cancer.

 

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