[USA] A rare sugar found in seaweed, mushrooms and seeds could help in the fight against skin cancer, experts revealed.
The sugar, known as L-fucose, has previously been linked to certain cancers, as well as a number of pathological conditions including inflammation.
But, now a new study is the first to link the sugar to melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Researchers from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute found that by tampering with L-fucose metabolism, they could inhibit the spread of melanoma.
Dr Ze’ev Ronai, senior author of the study, said: ‘Not only were the tumors affected but also their micro-environment – the cells surrounding the tumor that play a critical role in sustaining the cancer – making the discovery even more impactful.’
Sugars – which include glucose and sucrose – are used by the body in different ways.
Some of them, such as L-fucose, provide important tags on cell-surface proteins that cause inflammation and direct cell migration.
Changes in the amount of L-fucose on certain cells have also been associated with breast and stomach cancers.
The study looked at activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2) – a protein which controls the expression of many other proteins.
ATF2 has been linked to the development of melanoma and other cancers in the past.
Dr Ronai said: ‘To our surprise, one of the genes found to be regulated by ATF2 was fucokinase, which controls the ability of cells to process the dietary sugar, L-fucose, into a form that is useable for the modification (fucosylation) of proteins, many of which are on the cell surface.’
The researchers found fucosylation in metastatic melanomas in human samples.
They also found a better prognosis for primary melanomas with increased fucosylation.
Dr Ronai said: ‘We suspect that the absence of L-fucose on melanoma cells makes them less sticky and more mobile in the body, making them more likely to metastasize.’
In mice with melanoma, researchers increased fucosylation by adding it to their drinking water or by genetic manipulation.
Photo: A rare sugar found in mushrooms, seaweed and seeds – called L-fucose – has already been linked to breast and stomach cancers, in addition to inflammation. Now, researchers revealed the sugar could be the key to stopping the spread of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer