April 14, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Starving Cancer Cells: Blocking the Glucose Addiction

Almost all cancer cells are “addicted” to glucose, says scientist Xiao Chen, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry. They depend on glucose and other nutrients to fuel growth.

But a new compound developed by biologist Chen and organic chemist Dr. Stephen Bergmeier, Professor and Chair of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is showing promise as a road block to this process—which essentially could starve cancer cells of their preferred energy source.

“Chemotherapies are not very specific,” Chen says, “but this is a targeted approach.”

In laboratory studies, animals treated with the compound showed a 60 to 70 percent reduction in the size of their cancerous tumors compared to a control group, and a few subjects were even tumor-free by the end of the treatment. No significant side effects were observed.

Working on Compound’s Half-Life in Body

The compounds are based on PGG, a naturally occurring substance found in vegetables and beverages such as red wine, which has been touted by other studies for its heart-healthy properties.

The researchers’ synthesized version is still in development. Right now, the compound has a short half-life in the body of about 30 minutes. The team—which has drawn from the expertise of Ohio University biochemists Dr. Jennifer Hines  and Dr. Shiyong Wu, as well as biologist Dr. Robert Colvin—is striving for the six to 12 hours needed for the compound to be effective in humans.

Each year, Ohio University’s Technology Transfer Office looks for new campus inventions that can be patented, licensed to a company, and manufactured and marketed for commercial, industry, or military use. In some cases, faculty, staff, or students might license the technology back from the university and launch their own start-up companies to develop the products. Otherwise, the university works with established and startup businesses around the globe to take these ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. Read more in Compass.

This article by Andrea Gibson appears in the Autumn/Winter 2013 issue of Ohio University’s Perspectives magazine.

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