Numerous pathological conditions, such as cancer, are associated to imbalanced levels of copper, a trace element essential for the activity of many metalloenzymes. Seiko Ishida, Interfaculty Institute for Bioengineering, Switzerland, and colleagues investigated the role of copper availability during tumor progression, revealing that this metal is an important nutrient for tumors.
The researchers demonstrated that copper stimulates cancer cell proliferation as it provides them with increased levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), namely the metabolic energy needed by cancer cells to divide. This phenomenon is due to the fact that copper forms the catalytic core of the cytochrome oxidase C, an enzyme crucial for ATP production. As a consequence, the pharmacological suppression of copper through the chelating drug tetrathiomolybdate, reduced cytochrome oxidase C activity, ultimately decreasing tumor growth in cancer-bearing mice.
Targeting copper may thus represent a novel strategy to fight tumors.
- Bioavailable copper modulates oxidative phosphorylation and growth of tumors,
S. Ishida, P. Andreux, C. Poitry-Yamate, J. Auwerx, D. Hanahan,
Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 2013.