Scientists have long assumed that the one ingredient a deadly brain tumour needs to grow is sugar. Turns out that actually, it isn't.
Researchers at Newcastle University, led by Dr Elizabeth Stoll, have found that in actual fact glioma cancer cells feed off fat, not sugar.
It transpires that the original theory had actually been formulated through a trick used to culture tissues in a laboratory environment.
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To try and encourage growth in the lab the cells are placed into a blood serum, this forces the cancer to change its original fuel source to the one most readily available, in this case sugar.
However when the team treated live tumours with a fat inhibiting drug called etomoxir they found that cancer growth was significantly slowed, improving survival time by up to 17 per cent.
Speaking to the Independent, Dr Stoll said: “These results provide a novel drug target which could aid in the clinical treatment of this disease for patients in the future.”
“For 60 years, we have believed all tumours rely on sugars for their energy source and the brain relies on sugars for its energy source, so you certainly would think brain tumours would.”
Dr Stoll believes that this breakthrough could have wider implications for understanding how different cancers are able to survive in different parts of the body.