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Targeting Fat to Treat Cancer

Fat isn’t just something we eat: it may lie at the heart of a new approach to treating cancer.

Cells create their own fat molecules to build critical cellular structures. Reuben Shaw’s lab, along with academic and industry collaborators, has found a way to obstruct this instrumental process to stifle cancer’s growth, detailed September 2016 in Nature Medicine. Like halting the delivery of supplies to a construction site, the approach stalls the molecular building blocks cancer needs to grow.

Researchers had previously hypothesized that interrupting cells’; lipid assembly line could disable cancer, but it was only recently that they were able to disrupt the process and test this theory. Shaw, first author Robert Svensson, and colleagues partnered with Nimbus Therapeutics to test a molecule that shuts off a critical player in lipid synthesis, an enzyme called Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase, or ACC.

In large-scale tests in animal models of cancer and in transplanted human lung cancer cells, the novel ACC inhibitor led to tumor masses shrinking by roughly two-thirds compared to untreated animals. And when the team paired this new drug with one of the common treatments for non-small lung cancer (carboplatin), the anti-tumor response was even greater: a dramatic 87 percent of tumors were suppressed, compared to 50 percent with the standard treatment alone, pointing to a promising drug candidate for lung cancer as well as liver and other types of cancer.

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