Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Could diabetes treatments fight cancer?


Drugs that treat diabetes may also be effective against some cancers. In today’s Journal of Biology, researchers at the University of Dundee report the discovery of an unexpected link between diabetes and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, a hereditary disease that increases the risk of suffering from cancer.

The Dundee team were looking for a protein that activates AMPK, an enzyme that reduces blood glucose levels and is a target for drugs commonly used in treating Type 2 diabetes.

They hoped that this protein would be a target for new anti-diabetes drugs, and their search ended with an enzyme called LKB1. Surprisingly, a lack of LKB1 is a known cause of Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, in which the risk of developing some cancers is 15 times higher than normal.

"It was totally unexpected," said Dario Alessi, one of the research team leaders. "LKB1 was thought of as a tumour suppressor gene, and AMPK was involved in diabetes. No one thought that there could be a link between the two."

Grahame Hardie, the second team leader, said: "The idea that LKB1 might switch on AMPK came from work I did on a related system in the simple single-cell organism brewer’s yeast. [...] The idea that LKB1 might be the key was a genuine ’Eureka’ moment, especially when I realised that Dario Alessi already worked on it and had all of the expertise necessary to test the idea."

Having identified the LKB1 enzyme in yeast, the Dundee team looked for its counterpart in rat liver extracts that could activate AMPK. They not only identified the rat version of LKB1, but also found two proteins that bind to LKB1 and enhance its activity. When the researchers removed LKB1 from the extract, they found that the extract could no longer activate AMPK, consistent with LKB1 being the activating enzyme.

LKB1 normally acts to prevent tumour growth. The way that it does this was unclear until now, but this research suggests that its tumour-preventing properties may be dependent on its ability to activate AMPK. This would make sense as active AMPK not only reduces blood glucose levels, but can also inhibit cell division and the production of molecules required for cell growth.

Patients with Type 2 diabetes commonly have high levels of glucose in their bloodstreams. Active AMPK reduces these by inducing muscles to take up glucose from the blood, and inhibiting glucose production. Some common anti-diabetes drugs target AMPK, increasing its activity. Intriguingly, the researchers found that one such drug, metformin, the active ingredient of the glucophage medicine, was ineffective in cells that contained no LKB1. Alessi said: "It is not yet clear whether metformin directly activates LKB1, our research didn’t test this. It is one of the things to find out in the future." However, he believes that drugs which activate LKB1 could be more effective at treating diabetes than current therapies.

Although metformin would be ineffective against Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, as the tumours would not have any LKB1, virtually all other tumours retain their LKB1 activity. Alessi explains: "An exciting possibility is that metformin could be used for treating some forms of cancer. Metformin is the most widely used diabetes drug in the world. It will be interesting to see if people on metformin get less cancer - the data must be out there somewhere."

This press release is based on the following article:

Complexes between the LKB1 tumor suppressor, STRADa/b and MO25 a/b are upstream kinases in the AMP-activated protein kinase cascade.

Simon A Hawley, Jerome Boudeau, Jennifer L Reid, Kirsty J Mustard, Lina Udd, Tomi P Makela, Dario R Alessi and D Grahame Hardie.

Journal of Biology 2:28 Published 24th September 2003 16:00 GMT

Gemma Bradley | BioMed Central
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>