Academics & Research

Research

Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma Thrives on Lactate

Model systems for the study of cancer come in many varieties. Each model transfers some aspect of a human cancer into an experimental setting, such as a culture dish or animal model, to recreate features of the cancer and teach researchers more about its cell biology.  The point of any model's experimental setting is to enable direct testing of cause and effect relationships. Researchers led by Kevin B. Jones, M.D., transferred no more than a single gene from a human cancer called alveolar soft part sarcoma into a mouse. That gene alone then generated a very precise mimic of the original cancer, proving that the gene serves as the central driver of alveolar soft part sarcoma. Further testing with the mice that spontaneously grew these sarcomas further demonstrated that this particular cancer type prefers to grow in tissues with high levels of lactate, a byproduct made when sugar breaks down. By altering the concentrations of lactate to which a tumor was exposed, the investigators were able to alter its growth and behavior. Contrary to old dogma that considered lactate only a waste product, the team proved that these cancers soak in lactate from their surroundings and thrive on it. Work is under way to test means of blocking this use of lactate as a means of stopping tumor growth.