For many years, it has been known that cancer cells have a huge appetite for sugar. They need lots of energy to reproduce but many cancer cells lack functioning pathways to get energy from other chemicals. The fact that cancer cells take in large amounts of glucose is even the basis for some of the diagnostic techniques used to find tumors, including PET scans.
New research has shown that if cancer cells are fed a modified form of glucose (2-deoxyglucose), they take it up quickly. The altered form does not provide them any energy and, in fact, stalls their actiivity. When used in combination with two chemicals that allow damaged cells to commit suicide (apoptosis), the effects were very striking. Many different cancer cell types were driven to suicide by the combination treatment. Because 2-deoxyglucose and the other chemicals (ABT-263 and ABT-737) are already in clinical trials, a trial combining them could happen quickly.