SGLT2 inhibitors could be used to prevent the development of tumours in people with a common type of lung cancer, scientists report.
SGLT2 is a protein in the body that allows the kidneys to reabsorb glucose. SGLT2 inhibitors, a drug class used to treat people with type 2 diabetes, are therefore designed to lower blood glucose levels by preventing the kidneys reabsorbing glucose back into the blood.
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, US discovered that SGLT2 is produced at high levels during the early stages of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumours.
Because cancer cells are known to consume glucose at a higher rate than healthy cells to help fuel their growth, the researchers built on previous research that found prostate and pancreatic cancers use SGLT2 in order to consume sugar.
They were investigating improving diagnosis and treatment for NSCLC, the most common type of lung cancer. Because newly cancerous tumours are extremely small, this can make them harder to identify.
In a study on mice, the researchers used positron emission tomography (PET scans) and discovered that SGLT2 was expressed during early stage NSCLC tumours.
When the mice were administered with SGLT2 inhibitors, this was successful in blocking the activity. When compared with placebo, SGLT2 inhibitors were successful in reducing tumour growth and extending survival.
“Targeting SGLT2 in lung tumours may intercept lung cancer progression at early stages of development,” said the researchers, who believe further research could help utilise SGLT2 inhibitors to prevent tumour progression to invasive cancer.
The researchers now plan to investigate unusual levels of SGLT2 in early stage NSCLC in larger samples of human lung cancers.

The findings have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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