Public Release: 

Sylvester researchers develop novel, non-toxic approach to treating variety of cancers

A new study shows success with a combination therapy of the sugar 2-DG with a well-known cholesterol drug

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

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IMAGE: Combining 2-DG with fenofibrate yields two forms of cancer cell death. view more

Credit: Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

MIAMI, May 18, 2016 -- A team of researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine recently discovered a novel, non-toxic approach to treating a wide variety of cancers. The treatment approach is based on a combination therapy of the sugar 2-Deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) and fenofibrate, a well-studied cholesterol medication. The study was published in the journal Oncotarget.

"Cancer cells found in the inner core of all solid tumors - due to the abnormally low levels of oxygen they are in - must rely on the process of glycolysis, the breakdown of glucose for energy, to survive," said Theodore Lampidis, Ph.D., a cancer researcher at Sylvester and lead author of the study. "These cells, by nature of their slow growth, have been found to be the most resistant to conventional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. In this study, we showed that a false sugar such as 2-DG, which blocks glycolysis, selectively starves these slow-growing cancer cells while sparing normal cells, which can use other sources of energy, such as fats and proteins because they are fully oxygenated."

Although a Phase I clinical trial in which 2-DG was combined with a conventional anticancer drug proved successful, the toxic side effects of chemotherapy remained an issue. However, in this study, the team of scientists showed that by combining 2-DG with fenofibrate, a compound that has been safely used in humans for more than 40 years to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, the entire tumor could effectively be targeted without the use of toxic chemotherapy.

"We found that the unique combination of 2-DG and fenofibrate simultaneously provoked two types of stress, known as energy and ER stress, which most cancer types cannot overcome," said Lampidis, who is also professor of cell biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Due to uncontrolled growth and to the abnormal micro-environment in which cancer cells exist, they are under more stress than normal, healthy cells. In addition to 2-DG taking advantage of the universal cancer trait of increased glucose uptake, adding fenofibrate effectively exploits a second common feature of cancers - increased stress.

"We believe our findings effectively pave the way for using this combination to provide non-toxic treatments for a wide variety of cancers," said Lampidis.

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About Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth - the University of Miami Health System and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is among the nation's leading cancer centers and South Florida's only Cancer Center of Excellence. A 2015 study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that cancer patients treated at Sylvester have a 10 percent higher chance of survival than those treated at nearly any other cancer center in the nation. With the combined strength of more than 120 cancer researchers and 130 cancer specialists, Sylvester discovers, develops and delivers more targeted therapies, providing the next generation of cancer clinical care - precision cancer medicine - to each patient. Our comprehensive diagnostics, coupled with teams of scientific and clinical experts who specialize in just one type of cancer, enable us to better understand each patient's individual cancer and develop treatments that target the cells and genes driving the cancer's growth and survival, leading to better outcomes. At Sylvester, patients have access to more treatment options and more cancer clinical trials than most hospitals in the southeastern United States. To better serve current and future patients, Sylvester has a network of conveniently located outpatient treatment facilities in Miami, Kendall, Hollywood, Plantation, Deerfield Beach and Coral Springs, with plans to open in Coral Gables in 2016. For more information, visit Sylvester.org.

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