Learning One of Cancer's Tricks

Caltech chemists determine one way tumors meet their growing needs

"tumor cells alter glycosylation, the addition of carbohydrates (in this case GlcNAc) to their proteins, in response to their surroundings. This ultimately helps the cancerous cells survive. When the scientists blocked the addition of GlcNAc to a particular protein in mice, tumor-cell growth was impaired."

"In their studies, Hsieh-Wilson's team found that this glycosylation—the addition of GlcNAc to PFK1—is enhanced under conditions associated with tumors, such as low oxygen levels. They also found that glycosylation of PFK1 was sensitive to the availability of nutrients. If certain nutrients were absent, glycosylation was increased, and the tumor was able to compensate for the dearth of nutrients by changing the cell's metabolism."