Cancer cell transport proteins provide delivery insight

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute are studying the transport proteins on tumor cell membranes that allow nutrients into the cell. By exploiting these proteins, they hope to be able to fight cancer cells by starving them, and learn more about the delivery of drugs to those cells.

Tumor cells are highly dependent on the transportation of nutrients via the GLUT protein, according to a report from the Swedish institute and a study published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. These high-speed transporter proteins allow the rapid growth of the tumor with glucose and other sugars.

"In showing details of the molecular structure of the region that binds the sugar, our study opens up the opportunities to more efficiently develop new substances that may inhibit GLUT transporters," said Par Nordlund, one of the researchers, in a statement. "Information on the structure of the transport protein facilitates the development of better drugs in a shorter time. Such GLUT inhibitors could potentially be used to treat cancer in the future."

The research team also suspects the GLUT transporter could play a role in treating diabetes, activating the uptake of glucose from the blood. The research here could also help the understanding of other membrane proteins such as G-protein-coupled receptors and ion channels, both used in the field of drug delivery as receptors and drug transporters.

- here's the Karolinska release