Cancer Issues
'Redcoat' Dye Could Lead to Anticancer Drugs
Nov 13, 2012 - 9:40:12 AM

( - ATLANTA--Researchers at Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, have identified an enzyme that coordinates cancer cells' altered metabolism and sugar consumption.

Inhibitors of the enzyme, phosphoglycerate mutase 1 (PGAM1), include a red dye, alizarin, which was used to color British soldiers' uniforms in the 17th and 18th centuries. Derivatives of alizarin could be a starting point for new anticancer drugs, particularly against leukemia.

The results are published online in the journal Cancer Cell.

The first author of the paper is postdoctoral fellow Taro Hitosugi. The senior author is Jing Chen, PhD, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute. Collaborators include Lu Zhou (co-first author) and Chuan He (co-senior author), PhD, professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago. Zhou is now at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Chen and Hitosugi say they decided to focus on PGAM1 because it controls a strategic point within cellular metabolism. Cancer cells tend to consume more glucose, or blood sugar, partly because they use the glucose to make building blocks for new cells. This tendency is known as the “Warburg effect.”

Their research shows that PGAM1 appears to coordinate both of these processes: glycolysis (glucose consumption) and biosynthesis (producing building blocks). Without PGAM1, the chemical 3-phosphoglycerate builds up in the cell and shuts down biosynthesis.

"PGAM1 doesn't set the speed limit, but it does regulate the traffic," Chen says. "If PGAM1 is not doing its job, then everything slows down."

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