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Out of Gas

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For many years, cancer researchers have been trying to create drugs which target genes that cause tumors to grow. But now, researchers are looking to cut tumors off from their source of nourishment, says the New York Times' Andrew Pollack. Cancer cells consume large amounts of glucose to generate energy, and researchers speculate that if that source of energy is cut off, the accelerators that cause the tumors to grow will shut off. Pharmaceutical companies are starting to take interest, Pollack notes, with research at both small biotechs and large pharma companies picking up steam. AstraZeneca has already partnered with the British charity Cancer Research UK to develop drugs that interfere with cancer metabolism. Researchers are even taking an interest in the connection between cancer and diabetes, with the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association publishing a joint statement earlier this year summarizing how they think the two are interrelated, Pollack says. In fact, people with Type 2 diabetes do have a higher risk of getting certain cancers, and there is some evidence to show that diabetes treatment metformin might be useful in treating cancer. Efforts are underway at many pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments based on disrupting the flow of glucose to a tumor, even treatments that can be used in conjunction with standard chemotherapy, Pollack says. Other companies are working on drugs that inhibit enzymes like pyruvate kinase M2, which are also involved in tumor metabolism. There are clinical trials of several drugs ongoing. The research will take time, Pollack adds, but researchers seem to be optimistic.

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