The research of Arun Kanakkanthara, Ph.D., focuses on understanding the mechanisms leading to metabolic alterations in cancer.
Cancer cells often reprogram metabolism to meet their high energy demand. Accordingly, one strategy to killing cancer cells is starving them by blocking their essential sources of energy, especially glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation. Dr. Kanakkanthara anticipates that deciphering how cancer cells modify energy metabolism will enable development of novel prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic options for personalized cancer therapy.
By utilizing a combination of cell-based, tissue-based and molecular approaches, Dr. Kanakkanthara's studies identify key molecular genetic changes that drive mitochondrial metabolic remodeling in cancers, in particular ovarian and breast cancers.
- Tumor suppressors and mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming. Mutations or epigenetic alterations in tumor suppressors are now appreciated as a cause of metabolic changes in cancers. However, a complete understanding of how tumor suppressor networks influence cellular energy metabolism is lacking. Dr. Kanakkanthara is investigating the role of tumor suppressors in the regulation of metabolism in cancer cells.
- Targeting tumor metabolic vulnerabilities. Metabolic reprogramming introduces therapeutic vulnerabilities that can be exploited to treat cancer. Dr. Kanakkanthara studies how to utilize metabolic changes and metabolic dependencies of cancer cells for selectively targeting tumors.
Significance to patient care
Cancer cells exhibit an altered mitochondrial metabolic phenotype. It is, however, unclear as to how this switch takes place, and its potential to serve as a target or marker for tailoring patient-specific therapeutic strategies. Through his research, Dr. Kanakkanthara works to better understand the causes of metabolic abnormalities, with the ultimate goal of creating individualized therapy for patients with cancer.
- Recipient, Genentech Ovarian Cancer Young Investigator Career Development Award, The Foundation for Women's Cancer, 2017