Two key factors made healthy cells cancerous

Scientists have discovered the mechanisms responsible for the occurrence of cancer. It turned out that genes associated with the disease cause normal cells to fight oxidative stress and produce nucleotides – this helps cancer cells to survive and grow quickly.

A team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania conducted an experiment on mouse and human cells. They first overexpressed the gene G6PD, which produces the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, in cells and found that overexpression turns healthy cells into cancerous cells and leads to the formation of tumors. The results of the study are published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

To understand which processes are key to the development of the disease, the team analyzed the mechanisms involved in gene overexpression. It turned out that G6PD stimulates the production of the Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH), which helps maintain the redox balance of the cell and protect it from damage and death. In addition, it is responsible for the production of ribose and stimulates the production of Nucleotide Precursor and cell proliferation.

The results of the study show that the ability of cells to maintain oxidative-restorative balance and synthesize Nucleotide is limited and any cell can become cancerous if it crosses a certain line. In addition, the work proves that antioxidants actually support tumor growth rather than slow it down. For normal tumor growth, good antioxidant protection is needed, and the fight of healthy cells against oxidative stress provides cancer with an ideal environment.

Scientists believe their discovery explains why compounds that interfere with the biosynthesis of Nucleotide are among the best drugs for cancer treatment today. In addition, the work can become the basis for creating a new therapy that would not destroy cancer cells, but would not allow them to develop from healthy ones. 

“Combining therapies, some of which are already in clinics, would be effective in preventing cells from becoming cancerous,” concluded Yang.