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Even with extensive research spanning many decades, cancer is such a complex disease that there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding it. Recently though researchers from UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have made a discovery that can bring us closer to having a better overall picture.
SGLT2 (sodium glucose transporter 2) is a novel biomarker that seems to provide the amount of glucose cancer cells require in order to survive and grow. Pancreatic and prostate malignancies have particularly high levels of SGLT2, prompting the team to study its role in tumor development.
The ultimate goal is to find applications for lung cancer, currently the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates more than 2 million new cases each year globally and about 1.7 million deaths as a result.
By using positron emission tomography, or PET scans, they were able to monitor the activity of the molecule and also test SGLT2 inhibitors on mice with genetic models of lung cancer and mice that had been implanted with human lung tumors.
Findings of the study suggest that lung cancer could be detected much earlier, making it easier to treat. SGLT2 might make it possible to discover the disease even before lesions become cancerous.
Researchers also noticed that a common FDA-approved inhibitor drug (which is currently used to treat diabetes) could help block SGLT2 activity in the mutated cells. In theory, the drug could block glucose uptake and have an effect on reducing tumor growth.
The social and economic burden created by cancer weighs heavily, but discoveries such as this can hopefully lead to the eventual solution.