A way to starve liver cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact has been discovered by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Liver cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths world wide, with only limited treatments available.

The method involves blocking the protein called “liver receptor homolog 1” (LRH-1). The cancer cells need LRH-1 to digest glutamine into smaller molecules that the cells then consume. With LRH-1 absent, the cancer cells starve and normal cells are preserved. In studies conducted with mice, the scientists found this method of blocking LRH-1 reduces the development of liver cancer.

The discovery was published in a scientific journal by the name of Genes & Development and could potentially introduce drug treatments that target LRH-1 directly.

Source: EPFL

Image credit: K. Schoonjans/EPFL