Kim’s Translational Studies Have Potential to Find Lung Cancer Therapies

University of Illinois Cancer Center member Jiyeon Kim received a four-year grant from the American Cancer Society to investigate whether the pathway that increases fructose and mannose metabolism in lung cancer is a potential therapeutic target.

Through the integration of metabolic and genetic analysis, Kim’s laboratory has discovered that human and animal lung tumors show an increased amount of fructose and mannose-related metabolites when two of the most commonly mutated genes are present. The co-mutation renders cancer cells dependent on a critical enzyme in mannose metabolism, which is important for most glycosylation reactions.

“Alteration in glycosylation is a universal feature of cancer cells, and some glycans are well-known markers of tumor progression,” Kim said. “During our research, we will study how these mutations elevate fructose and mannose metabolism in lung cancer and determine whether targeting this pathway can be beneficial for treatment.

“Our translational studies have the potential to identify novel therapeutic strategies.”

Glycosylation is an important and highly regulated mechanism of secondary protein processing within cells, said Kim, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics and member of the Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology program. It plays a critical role in determining protein structure, function and stability, and changes result in alterations in how they recruit, interact with, and activate signaling proteins.

The leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States and worldwide, lung cancer claims more lives each year than do colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined. In 2019, the last figures available, new cases of lung cancer was expected to be diagnosed in 228,150 individuals, causing 142,670 deaths. The annual cost of lung cancer care is $13 billion.

“The critical barrier in lung cancer treatment is a lack of effective therapies at later stages of the disease,” said Kim. “Developing novel approaches to identify effective new therapies is imperative if we are serious about alleviating lung cancer’s burden on patients, families and society.”

The grant is valued at $767,470.

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