W. Keith Miskimins, PhD, Lab
Primary Research Focus
The basis for much of the work in the Miskimins Lab is the “reprogramming” of cancer cell metabolism. For energy metabolism most normal tissues and cells use carbohydrates, proteins and fats which are processed to maximize ATP production. In contrast, cancers rely heavily on carbohydrate, primarily glucose and metabolism. Cancer cells use glucose to produce energy, but they also use the carbon chains of glucose to produce the “building blocks” needed to make new cells. Cancer cells also rely on metabolism of certain amino acids for growth. The Miskimins Lab’s current research focuses on understanding the regulation of these metabolic pathways and how they can be manipulated to alter the properties of tumors.
Behind the Research
Metabolism, mitochondria, and cell death mechanisms in breast cancer, ovarian cancer and HNSCC.
A main research interest in our laboratory is tumor cell metabolism. Cancer cells undergo a process called metabolic reprogramming that allows them to survive and proliferate under conditions that would be detrimental to normal cells. By modulating the altered metabolic processes, it may be possible to specifically target cancer cells and inhibit their growth and promote their death. We have found that several drugs or compounds that alter specific metabolic pathways are toxic to cancer cells. One of these drugs is metformin, which is commonly used for treating type II diabetes. In cancer cells, metformin inhibits cell proliferation and then promotes cell death. We are analyzing the mechanisms that lead to these cellular responses. Our goal is to determine the molecular pathways that mediate these effects. We are also identifying other metabolism-targeted drugs and compounds that synergize with metformin to kill cancer cells.