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Cancer Res. 2000 Nov 1;60(21):6201-7.

Remarkable tolerance of tumor cells to nutrient deprivation: possible new biochemical target for cancer therapy.

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Investigative Treatment Division, National Cancer Center Research Institute East, Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan.


We hypothesized that the tolerance for nutrient deprivation as well as angiogenesis might be an important factor for tumor progression under hypovascular conditions. When normal human fibroblasts were subjected to extreme nutrient starvation by culturing in a medium without serum, glucose, and amino acids, cells died within 24 h. When substituted with liver cancer cell lines HepG2, Hep3B, HLE, and HuH-7, cell death occurred within 36 h. In contrast, four of six pancreas cancer cell lines, PANC-1, AsPC-1, BxPC-1, and KP-3, survived for remarkably longer periods; >50% of the cells survived, even after starvation for 48 h. Among three gastric cancer cell lines, MKN28, MKN45, and MKN74, only the most poorly differentiated MKN45 cells survived >36 h. More than 50% of the cells in colon cancer cell lines SW480, WiDr, and DLD-1 survived after 36 h, and the most undifferentiated SW480 cell line survived longest. We examined the possible involvement of PKB/Akt expression in the survival of various cell lines under nutrient starvation conditions. High expression of PKB/Akt was found to be associated with tolerance for nutrient starvation. When Akt antisense RNA expression vectors were introduced into PANC-1 cells, the tolerance was partially but significantly diminished by vectors for Akt1 and Akt2 but not Akt3. Because elimination of the tolerance might serve as a new strategy for cancer therapy, several compounds were tested for this purpose, and troglitazone, an insulin sensitizer, as well as LY294002, a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor, were found to kill PANC-1 cells only under nutrient starvation conditions.

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