Enzyme stops tumour growth in its tracks

Scientists in America have discovered that an enzyme called FBP1, already well-known for controlling metabolism in cells through its ability to turn genes on and off, can play an important role in the treatment of kidney cancer.

The study, which published its results in the scientific journal Nature this week, discovered that a main characteristic of clear cell renal cell carcinoma is the higher levels of the carbohydrate glycogen and the deposits of fat in affected kidney cells, also known as Kreb’s Cycle. The fat deposits collect as clear droplets within the body – a feature which gives the type of cancer its name.

Kreb’s Cycle is a series of faulty biochemical reactions within the body which result in the over-production of fats, exactly like the main characteristic of clear cell renal cell carcinoma.

Tissue samples from over 600 clear cell renal cell carcinoma were found to not have any presence of the FBP1 enzyme, without which the tumour cells produced energy at a much faster rate than normal cells. The research team discovered that FBP1 stops cells growing out of control.

FBP1 has been found to restrain cell growth and inhibits hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs) which is another prominent characteristic of clear cell renal cell carcinoma.

Kidney cancer rates have been rising significantly worldwide throughout the past decade, and patients usually have a very good chance of survival if their tumours are removed early. Their prognosis doesn’t seem to be so good, however, if the FBP1 enzyme is switching off the relevant genes.

Because FBP1 is depleted in almost 100% of clear cell renal cell carcinoma patients – a huge and wide-ranging depletion of one enzyme which isn’t found in patients with any other form of cancer – using it to stop tumour cell growth is more effective in patients with cancer using tumour suppressors when the enzyme or gene may be present in some cases.

FBP1 is also depleted within patients with liver cancer, although not to the same magnitude as the prevalence of loss of the enzyme within kidney cancer patients. However, this could still lead to this enzyme being used as a tumour suppressor for liver cancer and potentially other types of cancer too.

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