A new study of non-diabetic women with ovarian cancer reveals a potential correlation and area for further study regarding the expression of the GLUT1 glucose transporter receptor at the cancer tissue level (J Cell Physiol 2017; doi:10.1002/jcp.26023).
GLUT1 is a receptor protein involved in the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream and across membranes in the body. Physiologically, GLUT1 is not traceable in the ovaries. However, in patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer, use of immunohistochemical methods revealed the presence of this receptor, which tends to be intensely expressed in the most aggressive cases.
“Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among gynecological cancers. Despite remarkable achievements in terms of diagnoses and therapeutics, patient outcomes in terms of survival rates have remained largely unchanged. This is largely due to our limited understanding of the underlying mechanisms and pathways,” said Maddalena Barba, PhD, researcher at the IRCCS Regina Elena National Cancer Institute of Rome, Central Italy.
“This study revealed a higher expression of the glucose transporter 1 in cancer samples of patients with lower glucose levels in non-diabetic women. These findings provide evidence in support of our prior results from this same study population. Indeed, we have recently observed an association between cancer stage at diagnosis and circulating levels of fasting glucose,” explained Patrizia Vici, MD, clinical researcher at the Division of Medical Oncology 2 of the IRCCS Regina Elena National Cancer Institute.
The study included 40 randomly-selected patients from a larger cohort of 147 women diagnosed with high-grade, advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
“The findings from the immunohistochemical assessment of this population are key to understanding a variety of factors and determinants related to glucose metabolism in ovarian cancer. In addition, our findings establish a link between fasting glucose, and the expression of the glucose transporter GLUT1. We thus provide support to the hypothesis stated in our prior work within this same pipeline and, at the same time, ascertain the existence of a relation between a systemic and a local tissue biomarker related to energy metabolism. If confirmed in future studies, this may translate into the identification and characterization of innovative drug targets in ovarian cancer patients,” concluded Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD, Director of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia.