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Cell Metabolism

Genetic “whodunit” for cancer gene solved

Long thought to suppress cancer by slowing cellular metabolism, the protein complex AMPK also seems to help tumors grow in some cases, confounding researchers. The lab of Professor Reuben Shaw, including first author Lillian Eichner, showed that advanced cancers can trigger AMPK’s cellular recycling signal to cannibalize pieces of the cell, supplying large lung tumors with the nutrients they need to grow, despite being far from blood vessels. Blocking AMPK in some conditions could stop the growth of advanced tumors in the most common type of lung cancer.

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In surprising reversal, scientists find a cellular process that stops cancer before it starts

Cells regularly break down and recycle their components in a process called autophagy. Professor Jan Karlseder, first author Joe Nassour and colleagues made a surprising discovery: autophagy—generally thought of as a survival mechanism for both cancerous and normal cells—can actually promote the death of cells, thereby preventing cancer initiation. The work reveals autophagy to be a novel tumor-suppressing pathway and suggests that treatments to block the process in an effort to curb cancer may unintentionally promote it very early on.

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