Shared survival mechanism explains why 'good' nerve cells last and 'bad' cancer cells flourish

Cancer cells and nervous system neurons may not look or act alike, but both use strikingly similar ways to survive, according to new research from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

The study published in the December issue of Nature Cell Biology is the first to describe how neurons (nerve cells) and cancer cells achieve the common goal of inhibiting the series of biochemical events called apoptosis that eventually causes cells to break down and die.

That’s good in the case of neurons, but bad when it comes to cancer.

“In neurons, inhibiting cell death is physiologically important to ensuring their long term survival,” said the study’s lead author, neurobiologist Mohanish Deshmukh, Ph.D., associate professor of cell and developmental biology and member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “In cancer cells, blocking cell death allows them to evade the host defense systems and proliferate uncontrollably.”

Both neurons and cancer cells do have something in common: relying extensively on the metabolism of glucose, a simple sugar. But until now, the advantages of this common characteristic have remained unclear.

Read the full story here.

Filed under: ,