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Targeting cancer metabolism at the plasma membrane by limiting amino acid access through SLC6A14


Rapidly proliferating cancer cells increase flux through anabolic pathways to build the mass necessary to support cell division. Imported amino acids and glucose lie at the apex of the anabolic pyramid. Consistent with this, elevated expression of nutrient transporter proteins is characteristic of aggressive and highly malignant cancers. Because tumour cells are more dependent than their normal neighbours on accelerated nutrient import, these up-regulated transporters could be excellent targets for selective anti-cancer therapies. A study by Babu et al. in a recent issue of the Biochemical Journal definitively shows that SLC6A14 (where SLC is solute carrier) is one such cancer-specific amino acid transporter. Although mice completely lacking SLC6A14 are viable and exhibit normal mammary gland development, these animals are highly resistant to mammary tumour initiation and progression driven by potent oncogenes. Because SLC6A14 is essential for tumour growth yet dispensable for normal development and tissue maintenance, small molecules that block amino acid import through this transporter could be effective and selective anti-cancer agents, particularly as components of rational drug combinations.

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