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Publications in Glutamine by NOMIS researchers

Molecular classification of gastric cancer (GC) identified a subgroup of patients showing chemoresistance and poor prognosis, termed SEM (Stem-like/Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition/Mesenchymal) type in this study. Here, we show that SEM-type GC exhibits a distinct metabolic profile characterized by high glutaminase (GLS) levels. Unexpectedly, SEM-type GC cells are resistant to glutaminolysis inhibition. We show that under glutamine starvation, SEM-type GC cells up-regulate the 3 phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH)-mediated mitochondrial folate cycle pathway to produce NADPH as a reactive oxygen species scavenger for survival. This metabolic plasticity is associated with globally open chromatin structure in SEM-type GC cells, with ATF4/CEBPB identified as transcriptional drivers of the PHGDH-driven salvage pathway. Single-nucleus transcriptome analysis of patient-derived SEM-type GC organoids revealed intratumoral heterogeneity, with stemness-high subpopulations displaying high GLS expression, a resistance to GLS inhibition, and ATF4/CEBPB activation. Notably, coinhibition of GLS and PHGDH successfully eliminated stemness-high cancer cells. Together, these results provide insight into the metabolic plasticity of aggressive GC cells and suggest a treatment strategy for chemoresistant GC patients. Copyright © 2023 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 11, 2022

Background: Ketogenic diet is a potential means of augmenting cancer therapy. Here, we explore ketone body metabolism and its interplay with chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer. Methods: Metabolism and therapeutic responses of murine pancreatic cancer were studied using KPC primary tumors and tumor chunk allografts. Mice on standard high-carbohydrate diet or ketogenic diet were treated with cytotoxic chemotherapy (nab-paclitaxel, gemcitabine, cisplatin). Metabolic activity was monitored with metabolomics and isotope tracing, including 2H- and 13C-tracers, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, and imaging mass spectrometry. Findings: Ketone bodies are unidirectionally oxidized to make NADH. This stands in contrast to the carbohydrate-derived carboxylic acids lactate and pyruvate, which rapidly interconvert, buffering NADH/NAD. In murine pancreatic tumors, ketogenic diet decreases glucose’s concentration and tricarboxylic acid cycle contribution, enhances 3-hydroxybutyrate’s concentration and tricarboxylic acid contribution, and modestly elevates NADH, but does not impact tumor growth. In contrast, the combination of ketogenic diet and cytotoxic chemotherapy substantially raises tumor NADH and synergistically suppresses tumor growth, tripling the survival benefits of chemotherapy alone. Chemotherapy and ketogenic diet also synergize in immune-deficient mice, although long-term growth suppression was only observed in mice with an intact immune system. Conclusions: Ketogenic diet sensitizes murine pancreatic cancer tumors to cytotoxic chemotherapy. Based on these data, we have initiated a randomized clinical trial of chemotherapy with standard versus ketogenic diet for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer (NCT04631445). Funding: NIH R01CA163591, R50CA211437, R01CA237347-01A1, R01DK057978; NJCCR; NJHF; SU2C-AACR-DT-20-16; ACS134036-RSG-19-165-01-TBG; Rutgers Busch Biomedical Grant; Freeberg Foundation; Copley Foundation; Ludwig Cancer Research.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, General & Internal Medicine