A new potential target for cancer therapy has been found!

A new discovery about how cancer cells prepare the way for tumor growth and spread may lead to new treatments that stop it.

Cancer cells are known to release tiny exosomes which are packed with proteins and other molecules that make the tissue conditions more favorable for tutor progressions in many different ways. The molecules are able to remodel the environment of the cancer cells and are able to insert cancer genes into other cells and signal the immune system not to attack them, all making it easier for tumors to grow and for the cancer to spread to other parts of the body and invade nearby tissue. The spread of cancer is a complex process called metastasis. Researchers now have discovered a protein that controls the release of exosomes from cancer cells to promote tumor progression and metastasis.

This protein is Munc13-4 and it is often largely found in lung, breast, and pancreatic tumors and it is activated by binding to calcium. The researchers found that calcium triggered exosome secretion in aggressive breast cancer cells however when they removed Munc13-4 in the breast cancer cells, calcium no longer caused the cells to secrete exosomes. This was also the case when they replaced Munc13-4 with a mutant form that cannot bind to calcium.

Having greater knowledge about this protein will allow us to produce drugs which are more focused to be able to prevent cancer growth in future and provide a target for cancer therapy.

Overall, we think that increased expression of Munc13-4, combined with elevated calcium levels, drives enhanced exosome release by highly aggressive cancer cells, and that Munc13-4 is a potential target for therapeutic intervention.” -Prof. Thomas F. J. Martin

Is nutrition science unreliable?

Is nutrition science methodologically inferior to other fields? Is nutrition knowledge insufficiently stable to be useful? Is it even causing harm?

  • Quite often nutrition science has been criticised as being unreliable yet some argue that it has made vital contributions to human health. There are continuously shifts in medicine some of which focusing on single nutrient deficiencies and some focusing on overall diets and chronic diseases from various studies leading to a greater knowledge, however these advances have also brought with them new questions and uncertainties. These include the relevance of unsaturated fats and its diverse food sources, the effects of fish oil or vitamin D supplements and the relevance or calorie counting versus diet quality for long term weight control to name a few. What really adds to the controversy surrounding this topic however is the time lag between the generation of new knowledge and its implementation.
  • It is important to remember that uncertainty exists in all scientific fields. Nutrition science is evolving but this does not necessarily mean that we should be sceptical of current conclusions.
  • Is there a potential vested interest within the nutrition industry? Their optimal role is unclear. Government and on-profic organisational support is limited so the food industry has a key role in funding studies. This has however raised concerns that bias exists in their work spewing the findings towards industry benefit. It is vital that all parts of the food system globally contributes towards the solution weather it is through voluntary action of legalisation.
  • With all of this research, it needs to be conveyed to the public in order to take substantial effect. Enhancing the quality of dietary guidelines is one important strategy. standardisation of methods and criteria is also recommended.