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Br J Cancer. 2002 Sep 23;87(7):805-12.

Evaluation of 2-deoxy-D-glucose as a chemotherapeutic agent: mechanism of cell death.

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Department of Surgery, Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, MO 63110, USA.


Nutrient deprivation has been shown to cause cancer cell death. To exploit nutrient deprivation as anti-cancer therapy, we investigated the effects of the anti-metabolite 2-deoxy-D-glucose on breast cancer cells in vitro. This compound has been shown to inhibit glucose metabolism. Treatment of human breast cancer cell lines with 2-deoxy-D-glucose results in cessation of cell growth in a dose dependent manner. Cell viability as measured by the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide conversion assay and clonogenic survival are decreased with 2-deoxy-D-glucose treatment indicating that 2-deoxy-D-glucose causes breast cancer cell death. The cell death induced by 2-deoxy-D-glucose was found to be due to apoptosis as demonstrated by induction of caspase 3 activity and cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. Breast cancer cells treated with 2-deoxy-D-glucose express higher levels of Glut1 transporter protein as measured by Western blot analysis and have increased glucose uptake compared to non-treated breast cancer cells. From these results we conclude that 2-deoxy-D-glucose treatment causes death in human breast cancer cell lines by the activation of the apoptotic pathway. Our data suggest that breast cancer cells treated with 2-deoxy-D-glucose accelerate their own demise by initially expressing high levels of glucose transporter protein, which allows increased uptake of 2-deoxy-D-glucose, and subsequent induction of cell death. These data support the targeting of glucose metabolism as a site for chemotherapeutic intervention by agents such as 2-deoxy-D-glucose.

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