Dr. Bruno Sainz's research team (www.sainzlab.com), supported by the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) and the Carmen Delgado/Miguel Pérez-Mateo Fellowship from AESPANC-ACANPAN, has published a new study in Nature Communications (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18954-z) where they manage to cultivate, in a sustainable way, pancreatic cancer stem cells, the most aggressive cell type present within pancreatic cancer. The study, led by first author Dr. Sandra Valle, represents an important advance that should facilitate the identification of new targets and therapies against this tumor and these cells in particular.
Cancer stem cells are one of the key cancer cell types that mediate tumor survival, as they are able to resist common chemotherapy and thus drive tumor relapse following treatment. In addition, cancer stem cells are believed to be the cells responsible for metastasis due to their capacity to survive in circulation, evade the immune system and reestablish the primary tumor at distant sites. Their complexity is underscored by the difficulty that exist in studying and culturing these cells in the laboratory, due to their scarceness and inherent plasticity. Now, Dr. Sainz's research group at the IIB CSIC-UAM and IRYCIS, and in collaboration with Dr. Miguel Ángel Fernández-Moreno (IIB CSIC-UAM), have found an efficient way to cultivate them for an indefinite period of time. The secret is none other than changing the sugar source used by these cells. Instead of using glucose (a sugar source commonly used in cell cultures), they have observed that by using another sugar called galactose, which promotes mitochondrial respiration, they can achieve a culture highly enriched in cancer stem cells, and sustainable over months.
This discovery will help advance our understanding of these cells, specifically their mechanisms to resist treatments and the strategies they possess to evade the immune system and promote metastasis. This research may also open the door to the discovery of new therapies for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Instituto de Ivestigaciones Biomédicas de Madrid "Sols / Morreale"
Research paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18954-z