Modulating the therapeutic response of tumours to dietary serine and glycine starvation

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The non-essential amino acids serine and glycine are used in multiple anabolic processes that support cancer cell growth and proliferation (reviewed in ref.1). While some cancer cells upregulatede novoserine synthesis2,3,4, many others rely on exogenous serine for optimal growth5,6,7. Restriction of dietary serine and glycine can reduce tumour growth in xenograft and allograft models7,8. Here we show that this observation translates into more clinically relevant autochthonous tumours in genetically engineered mouse models of intestinal cancer (driven by Apc inactivation) or lymphoma (driven by Myc activation). The increased survival following dietary restriction of serine and glycine in these models was further improved by antagonizing the anti-oxidant response. Disruption of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (using biguanides) led to a complex response that could improve or impede the anti-tumour effect of serine and glycine starvation. Notably, Kras-driven mouse models of pancreatic and intestinal cancers were less responsive to depletion of serine and glycine, reflecting an ability of activated Kras to increase the expression of enzymes that are part of the serine synthesis pathway and thus promotede novoserine synthesis.

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