Could Metabolic Changes in Metastatic cells Provide new therapeutic targets?

Tumor metabolism is a critical aspect of cancer biology; as tumor cells develop they reprogram metabolic pathways in order to support rapid growth and proliferation. This metabolic reprogramming is influenced by factors within cancer cells (e.g., mutations) as well as environmental factors such as blood supply and other nearby cells. When cancer cells spread from the primary tumor to distant organs (a process known as metastasis), they require remarkable levels of metabolic adaptation. The metastatic cells must appropriately cope to survive in harsh environments, effectively invade foreign tissues, and respond to new levels of nutrient availability. How cancer cells navigate these metabolic changes is largely unknown.

To date, cancer cell metabolism has mostly been studied in a lab dish. These models can be limited because they cannot take into account unique physiological environments that influence cancer cell metabolism.  To address this, Dr. Faubert has developed novel metabolic tracing techniques that work in live, full-body models, allowing him to assess tumor metabolism in native environments. He has utilized these tracing techniques in both patients and mouse models to show that metabolite labelling patterns in tumors could be used as predictive markers of tumor aggressiveness.  Dr. Faubert will use his metabolic tracing techniques in mice with unique xenograft (or cross-species transplanted) tumor models, using cancer cells derived from lung cancer patients. The tumor models spontaneously metastasize to distant organs, allowing Dr. Faubert to fully explore how metabolism drives metastatic human lung cancer.

Using his Cancer Research Foundation Young Investigator Award, Dr. Faubert hopes to identify the organ-specific adaptations of metastatic cells and then therapeutically target those reprogrammed metabolic activities. His work aims to provide insight into the key pathways that support metastatic growth, with the goal of finding new cancer biomarkers and therapeutic opportunities.