Kim’s work could uncover new therapeutics to treat some lung cancers

University of Illinois Cancer Center member Jiyeon Kim has been awarded a V Scholar Grant to conduct research on how fructose-mannose metabolism impacts tumor growth and aggressiveness in non-small cell lung cancer.
Fructose – or fruit sugar – consumption increases the risk of colorectal cancer in mice, while mannose – a simple sugar related to glucose – does the opposite, slowing cancer growth in the animals, said Kim, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics. There has been no mechanistic study of how and why fructose-mannose metabolism impacts tumor growth and aggressiveness.
“Cancer is now widely recognized as a metabolic disease,” Kim said. “To grow, cancer cells aggressively acquire and convert nutrients from their environment in the cellular components necessary to support abnormal growth. Certain gene mutations normally support these metabolic changes. We are working to understand how a combination of gene mutations in lung cancer alters metabolism.”
Through the integration of genetic and metabolic analyses, Kim and her colleagues recently discovered that fructose and mannose metabolism are critical for the survival of lung cancer with a combination of mutations of the oncogene KRAS and tumor suppressor LKB1.
“We believe our work could uncover novel targets that can be used to develop new therapeutics,” Kim said. “By studying fructose-mannose metabolism, we hope to advance basic science, and ultimately improve our ability to personalize patient treatment.”
The grant, presented by The V Foundation for Cancer Research, supports young tenure-track faculty early in their cancer research careers by funding projects that are either laboratory-based fundamental research or translational research. As a V Scholar, Kim is invited to attend the annual V Scholar Summit in March 2020, held in the Raleigh, N.C., area, and will receive $100,000 per year for two years.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano, who led North Carolina State University to the NCAA basketball title in 1983, defeating the University of Houston in what is considered one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. Following his retirement from coaching, Valvano joined ESPN and ABC Sports as a broadcaster.
On April 23, 1993, Valvano died of adenocarcinoma, a type of glandular cancer that can spread to the bones. He was 47. Since its formation in 1993, the V Foundation has awarded more than $225 million in cancer research grants nationwide, and has grown to become one of the premier supporters of cutting-edge research.
Earlier this year, Kim was selected to receive the Lung Cancer Discovery Award presented by the American Lung Association, and received a K22 (Career Transition Award) grant from the National Cancer Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health.

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