Nav: Home

Vitamin B6, leukemia's deadly addiction

January 13, 2020

Scientists have discovered that Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) grows by taking advantage of the B6 vitamin to accelerate cell division. The research team from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) suggest they could halt the growth of this cancer by limiting its ability to manipulate the enzyme that pushes B6 to make proteins essential for cell division. It's an approach to attacking cancer without harming healthy cells, which need the B6 vitamin to survive.

Currently, only one-third of AML patients will survive five years after diagnosis. That's because, like many other deadly cancers, the cells involved in this aggressive form of blood cancer can divide and spread faster than most treatments can kill them.

CSHL Fellow Lingbo Zhang wanted to know how AML can achieve such rapid growth, so he looked closely at the genes of the disease's cancerous white blood cells.

"We found more than 230 genes that are very active in leukemic cells and then we tested them, one by one," he explained.

Using CRISPR gene-editing technology, Zhang's lab shut down the activity of each of these 230 suspect genes to see if their absence would stop the cancer cells from proliferating. Among the hundreds of genes they tested, one pattern emerged. The gene which produces PDXK, the enzyme that helps cells use vitamin B6, proved most important for the growth of the cancer.

Scott Lowe, a former CSHL fellow and currently the chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics program at MSK, said "while the action of certain vitamins has previously been linked to cancer, the specific links between vitamin B6 identified here were unexpected."

The B6 vitamin is crucial to cell metabolism, producing energy and other resources important for cell growth. In a healthy cell, the PDXK enzyme manages the activity of B6, making sure that the vitamin does the job when needed. Because normal cells don't actually divide all the time, the PDXK enzyme isn't always pushing the B6 vitamin to be active.

It's a different dynamic in cancer cells, which divide more frequently than normal cells. In AML cells, Zhang saw that the PDXK enzyme was always pushing B6 activity.

What this shows is that, "leukemic cells are addicted to vitamin B6," he said. "You can call it a vulnerability of the cancer."

Zhang cautions that his research on how cancer cells use the B6 vitamin to proliferate does not mean that cancer patients would necessarily benefit from reduced intake of B6 vitamin as part of their diet. The B6 vitamin is necessary for the survival of healthy cells. Zhang's research shows that cancer cells take advantage of the PDXK enzyme to increase B6 vitamin activity. This increased activity fuels AML growth.

Zhang and his colleagues say the next step is to develop a drug that specifically blocks leukemia from activating the PDXK enzyme. By manipulating the way the enzyme manages the activity of B6, a drug could slow or even stop the growth of cancerous cells without the profound side effects that would result from completely eliminating B6 from healthy cells. With the help of medicinal chemists, the team is now exploring this route.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm1FovsaK48
-end-


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Related Cancer Articles:

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.
Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.