Scientists find an enzyme that fuels brain tumours

An enzyme that apparently helps brain tumours grow has been uncovered by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston. The finding opens the possibility for new approaches to fighting the lethal disease that has thus far proved unstoppable. The study demonstrates the ability of brain tumours to feed and thrive even when deprived of nutrients and oxygen.

This happens because of an enzyme known as acetyl-CoA synthetase 2 (ACSS2), which helps a tumour to use acetate, a cellular salt, as a carbon-based source of food, instead of glucose. Cancer cells nestled in the core of tumours are able to not only survive in a nutrient deficient environment but also grow because of the acetate.

By severing this nutrient pathway it may become possible to prevent tumour growth and promote the death of cancer cells. However, the immune system is unable to do this and current therapies are ineffective.

Furthermore, it is not clear how ACSS2 travels from a liquid cell component called cytosol into the nucleus in a process known as nuclear translocation. If the nuclear translocation of ACSS2 could be stopped, so too would the cancer cell's ability to maintain itself.

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