In a new study, funded by Worldwide Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK, researchers have discovered that a type of sugar called ‘Mannose’ can slow tumor growth and improve chemotherapy in mouse models of multiple types of cancers.
The research could result in better understanding of how the nutritional sugar supplement can be used in potential therapy for cancer, according to the researchers whose findings were featured in the journal Nature. Cancerous tissues tend to use more glucose than other body tissues, but it has been a challenging task to control the amount of glucose in the body through diet alone.
Lead author Professor Kevin Ryan from Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute explained that as tumors require high amount of glucose to grow, limiting the amount they can utilize should reduce the cancer progression. However, the healthy tissues also need glucose, making it difficult to completely remove it from the body, he added.
In the new study, the research team found that a dosage of mannose could block enough sugar to slow tumor growth, without affecting the normal tissue. Although it is an early research, finding such ideal balance means, in the future, cancer patients can be given mannose to enhance the effects of chemotherapy, without causing any damage to the overall health, Ryan said.
For the study, the researchers investigated the response of mice with lung, pancreatic, or skin cancer, when mannose was added in their drinking water and given as an oral treatment. They found that addition of the supplement significantly slowed the tumor growth and caused no side effects to the mice.
In the following experiment, the researchers tested the effect of mannose in cancer treatment. Here, the mice were treated with doxorubicin and cisplatin, two of the most commonly used drugs for chemotherapy. It was discovered that mannose not only slow the growth of tumor but also enhance the effects of chemotherapy, leading to decrease in the size of tumors and increased life span of some mice.
Furthermore, the researchers examined the effects of mannose in various types of cancer such as osteosarcoma, leukemia, bowel and ovarian cancer. They cultured cancer cells in the lab and treated them with the sugar supplement. While few cells responded well to the treatment, others did not. Additionally, presence of an enzyme that breaks the sugar in the cells indicated effectiveness of the treatment.
Professor Ryan said that team’s next aim is to discover why mannose treatment is effective only in some cells, so that they can find out which cancer patients can benefit the most from this approach.