Ovarian Cancer Cells Use Glycogen to Grow, Spread to Other Tissues, Study Shows

Ovarian Cancer Cells Use Glycogen to Grow, Spread to Other Tissues, Study Shows
Ovarian cancer cells are able to use glycogen — a complex sugar molecule used for long-term energy storage — as a source of energy to grow and invade other tissues, leading to the formation of metastases, a study reveals. The process relies on the activation of a protein — called p38a MAPK — in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), a type of cell that supports the growth and spreading of cancer cells. Researchers discovered that blocking this protein prevented cancer cells from using glycogen and metastasizing. Findings of the study, "Fibroblasts Mobilize Tumor Cell Glycogen to Promote Proliferation and Metastasis," were published in Cell Metabolism. Up to 80 percent of women with ovarian cancer show signs of the disease spreading to the omentum — a large apron of fat covering the intestines — at the time of diagnosis. It is known that once these malignant cells reach the omentum and reduce the number of fat cells there, they start to grow and spread to other tissues at a much faster pace. But the mechanisms underlying this process are still unclear. A team of researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine, together with international collaborators, have now conducted a systematic study to investigate how ovarian cancer cells grow and spread once they reach the omentum. Cancer-associated fibroblasts are a major component of the tumor environment and have been shown to promote changes in cancer cells that make them more aggressive and increase their ability to spread. Therefore, the team sought to shed some light on the molecular aspects of CAF-cancer cell interactions. When scientists grew ovarian cancer cells together with CAFs in the same lab culture dish, they found that cancer cells induce the activation of p38a MAPK in CAFs,
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