If there is a silver lining in cancer’s chaotic biology, it’s that the same traits that give cancer cells a growth advantage often present opportunities for sabotaging them.
That’s the central idea behind a new research paper published November 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by Xuejun Jiang, a cell biologist in the Sloan Kettering Institute, and Craig Thompson, President and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering. They found that cancer cells often exhibit metabolic changes that make them vulnerable to a particular type of cell death called ferroptosis.
Ferroptosis — literally, death by iron — is often triggered by oxidative stress, the buildup in cells of free radicals and other corrosive chemicals that are byproducts of using oxygen to burn fuel for energy. But many cancer cells, which need abundant amounts of energy to grow and divide, have found a way around this problem.