Natural sugar induces "honeybee syndrome" in cancer to boost chemotherapy
Scientists have discovered that a common natural sugar could play a role in boosting cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Mannose was found to be able to invoke “honeybee syndrome” in cancer cells to slow their growth and make them more vulnerable to attack.
Mannose is found in many types of fruit and occurs naturally in the human body, where it performs a vital process called glycosylation, which stabilizes the structure of proteins and helps them interact with other molecules.
So far, it hasn’t been found to have many medical applications beyond restoring glycosylation in people with rare diseases where the process malfunctions. Previous studies have suggested that mannose can slow the growth of some kinds of cancer, but it’s not clear how that happens. So for the new study, scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys and the Osaka International Cancer Institute set out to investigate. The team had a hunch that it was related to, strangely enough, how honeybees react to it.
“It’s been known for more than a century that mannose is lethal to honeybees because they can’t process it like humans do – it’s known as ‘honeybee syndrome’,” said Hudson Freeze, co-author of the study. “We wanted to see if there is any relationship between honeybee syndrome and the anti-cancer properties of mannose, which could lead to an entirely new approach to combat cancer.”
The researchers experimented with human fibrosarcoma cells, a rare type of cancer of the connective tissue. These cells were engineered so that their metabolism of mannose could be carefully controlled. And sure enough, they found that if the cells lacked the enzyme that metabolizes mannose, their replication slows right down, making them significantly more vulnerable to chemotherapy.
“We found that triggering honeybee syndrome in these cancer cells made them unable to synthesize the building blocks of DNA and replicate normally,” said Freeze. “This helps explain the anti-cancer effects of mannose that we’ve observed in the lab.”
Using mannose as a secondary treatment against cancer should have few side effects, the team says, since it’s already common throughout the human body. However, more work is still needed to determine which types of cancer it might work best against.
The research was published in the journal eLife.
Source: Sanford Burnham Prebys