Can 2DG Enhance the Effectiveness of Immunotherapy?

Cancer cells stand out from their normal counterparts primarily due to their insatiable hunger for sugar. They consume glucose at a significantly higher rate, using it to fuel their rapid growth and meet their energy demands. Cancer cells typically rely heavily on a process called aerobic glycolysis for their energy production. This process, famously pinpointed by the Nobel prize laureate Otto Warburg, has become a defining characteristic of cancer, known as the Warburg effect.

While there are various treatments available to fight cancer, they often come with certain limitations. Some treatments might unintentionally harm healthy cells, or fail to stop cancer cells from repairing the damage inflicted by these treatments. This is where immunotherapy comes into play, representing a groundbreaking approach in cancer treatment. It mobilizes the body’s own immune cells to identify and eliminate cancer, harnessing the natural defense system to effectively target and destroy cancerous cells.

Immune System’s Natural Fight Against Cancer

Our immune system actively battles various forms of cancer. This is evident when we observe Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) surrounding cancer cells. The presence of these TILs indicates that the body’s defenses are actively challenging the tumor.

Comparing patients reveals insightful patterns. A patient with TILs surrounding their tumor generally fares better than another without these immune cells in the vicinity of the cancerous growth.

The Need for Immunotherapy

Cancer cells are quite cunning in their survival tactics. They’ve developed several strategies to hide from our immune system, essentially rendering themselves invisible to our body’s natural defenses. This can happen through genetic changes or by presenting unusual proteins on their surface, both of which can stop the immune system from identifying and attacking them.

This is why the presence of Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) is so important. If a patient’s tumors don’t have these TILs, it suggests that the immune system isn’t effectively combating the cancer, and that’s where immunotherapy becomes a critical intervention.

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cell Therapy: The Next Frontier

An innovative method in immunotherapy is CAR T-cell therapy. In this process, a patient’s T-cells (lymphocytes) are collected, genetically modified in a laboratory to boost their effectiveness, and then returned to the patient’s body.

These enhanced T-cell lymphocytes are better equipped to identify and destroy cancer cells. A key feature of these CAR T-cells is their co-stimulatory signaling domains, which significantly improve their performance. While this therapy isn’t yet widely used, its potential is clear and impressive.

Since 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six different CAR T-cell therapies, mainly targeting blood cancers like leukemia. The encouraging outcomes and fewer side effects of this therapy mark a significant advance in cancer treatment.

Challenges and Solutions of CAR T-Cell Therapy

Even though CAR T-cell therapy is a groundbreaking method for treating cancer, it’s not without its hurdles. Its swift progress in medicine is commendable, but issues such as a high rate of cancer coming back and reduced effectiveness against solid tumors are still concerns.

A hopeful approach to tackle this problem could be the use of 2DG with CAR T-cell therapy. By modifying the sugar metabolism in cancer cells with 2DG, we might be able to boost the therapeutic efficacy of immunotherapy, resulting in better performance against tumors.

What is N-Linked Glycosylation?

Put simply, N-linked glycosylation is about attaching carbohydrate structures, called oligosaccharides, to the starting end of proteins. This chemical process happens in the endoplasmic reticulum of cells, a critical structure for protein synthesis.

This process is widespread in almost all organisms with complex cells and is crucial for their survival. It’s also important for the functioning of cancer cells.

N-Glycosylation in Cancer Cells and Its Inhibition

Cancer cells are well-known for their increased activity in metabolizing glucose (sugar), a process essential for their survival. They generate a lot of energy either through glucose breakdown. Moreover, they have developed various biochemical pathways that help them evade the body’s immune system, making tumors remarkably tough.

Current research is focusing on a glucose antimetabolite called 2DG, which seems promising in disrupting the glycolytic activities of cancer cells. Interestingly, 2DG does more than just alter glucose phosphorylation; it also plays a key role in attaching carbohydrates to proteins, a process known as N-linked glycosylation.

When 2DG interacts in this process, it turns into 2-deoxy-D-mannose. This substance then becomes part of oligosaccharide chains, which hinders the formation of glycosylated proteins, also known as N-glycans, effectively preventing cancer cells from evading the immune system and multiplying.

By blocking glycosylation, the normal characteristics and functions of these cancer proteins change. This interference stops the cell division cycle, halting cancer cell growth, and could pave the way for new methods in tumor treatment.

Immunotherapy Types

Immunotherapy offers a promising direction in cancer treatment by leveraging the body’s immune system to combat tumor cells.

These are lab-created molecules specifically designed to mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens, particularly cancer cells.

Unlike typical antibodies produced by our T-cells, these target specific proteins on tumor cells, effectively rendering them visible to the immune system. Once the camouflage is disrupted, the immune system can recognize and combat the cancer.

Below, we break down various types of immunotherapies:

1. Cancer Treatment Vaccines

Unlike vaccines designed to prevent diseases, these treatments are given to patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer. Their goal is boosting the immune response against tumor cells. In essence, they teach the immune system how to identify and fight the disease.

2. Immune System Modulators

These proteins are tailored to target and stimulate specific components of the patient’s immune system. Once activated, the immune system becomes better prepared to recognize and destroy tumor cells.

3. Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

The immune system has in-built safety mechanisms, called checkpoints, to ensure it doesn’t attack the body’s cells. However, some cancer cells can hide behind these checkpoints, avoiding detection. Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs designed to interrupt these safety mechanisms, allowing the immune system to recognize and aggressively attack cancer cells.

4. T-Cell Transfer Therapy

This therapy involves extracting T-cells (a type of immune cell) from the patient’s tumor, enhancing them in the lab to make them more potent against cancer, and then reintroducing them into the patient’s body. This strengthens the body’s natural defense system, making it more effective in fighting against the tumor.

Challenges of Cancer Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy has marked the beginning of a new chapter in cancer treatment, bringing hope to countless individuals. Yet, it faces significant challenges.

A major issue is the tendency of cancer cells to eventually become resistant to treatment. Cancer cells, known for their high energy production via glycolysis, often disrupt key signaling pathways that are essential for the proper regulation of T-cells.

When T-cells don’t mature as they should, they fail to effectively identify and destroy tumor cells. This allows tumor cells to evade the immune response, which was initially boosted by the immunotherapy.

Addressing the Challenges of Immunotherapy

To overcome these obstacles, it could be helpful to focus on disrupting the energy production mechanisms of tumor cells after immunotherapy.

By cutting off their energy supply, these cells might be less capable of blocking the signaling pathways that are crucial for T-cell maturation and regulation.

Recent Research Discoveries in Cancer Therapy

Combining immunotherapy with a sugar-blocking substance called 2DG might make the treatment more effective. For example, certain types of cancer, like lung cancer, often show a higher presence of a protein called PD-L1. This protein is a focus for certain immunotherapies, like Keytruda (pembrolizumab), for instance.


Here’s an interesting fact: a particular form of PD-L1, which has sugars attached to it, is necessary for PD-L1 to work effectively. Cancer cells have a lot more of this sugar-coated PD-L1 than other types of healthy cells.

Research has shown that 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) can lower the sugar (glucose) levels connected to PD-L1, impacting its stability and its capacity to weaken our immune system. This discovery opens up the potential of combining these treatments for more effective cancer therapy.

Mechanisms of Action of 2DG in Cancer Treatment

2-Deoxyglucose (2DG) is a substance similar to glucose (sugar), and its possible therapeutic effects on cancer come from its capability to disrupt cancer cell metabolism and other essential functions.

Let’s delve into a detailed explanation of how it works:

Apoptosis (programmed cancer cell death): A key objective in treating cancer is to trigger apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death, in tumor cells. 2DG can switch on crucial proteins involved in this self-destructive process, such as Caspase 3 and PARP. Through encouraging apoptosis, 2DG plays a role in reducing the number of cancer cells.

Low Sugar Metabolism:
2DG interferes with a cancer cell’s ability to take up glucose from the environment. Glucose is an essential energy source for all cells, especially for rapidly proliferating cells like cancer cells. By depriving them of glucose, 2DG ensures that cancer cells can’t produce the required energy. This energy deprivation can prevent cancer cells from resisting the immune response and repairing damage inflicted during treatment.

Inhibition of the Glycolytic Pathway: Although 2DG can attach to the proteins in cells that transport glucose, it doesn’t get broken down the same way as glucose (sugar). This action blocks the glycolysis process, effectively halting the conversion from sugar to crucial energy for cancer cells.

Altering How Cancer Genes are Controlled: Chaperone proteins are crucial for making sure that other proteins fold correctly. Properly folded proteins are vital for many cancer cell functions, including serving as transcription factors that turn on gene expression. When 2DG is used, it can prevent proteins from folding correctly, messing up their role as transcription factors. As a result, genes that are important for the growth of cancer cells might stay inactive, which can help slow down or stop the growth of tumors.

Interfering with N-Linked Glycosylation: N-glycosylation is an important process for cell functions. 2DG can alter this process in T cells (immune cells). This change leads to T cells being more effective against tumors and keeping the IL-2R, a crucial receptor, on their surface longer. Additionally, 2DG stops T cells from connecting with tumor-related substances that can make T cells less active. This means that using 2DG to adjust the N-glycosylation in T cells could make therapies that focus on T cells more effective in treating cancer.

2DG: Enhancing Cancer Therapy by Targeting Cell Metabolism and Boosting Immunotherapy

Cancer continues to be one of the toughest health challenges to treat. Immunotherapy has become a ray of hope, using the body’s own defenses to fight cancer cells. However, like many treatments, cancer cells can change and become resistant, making the therapy less effective over time.

The introduction of 2DG, a substance similar to glucose, offers a hopeful answer to this challenge. By interfering with cancer cells’ energy sources, 2DG prevents tumors from weakening the immune response. This means that when 2DG is used alongside immunotherapy, the immune system can work at full strength to find and destroy cancer cells.

In essence, combining immunotherapy with 2DG represents a forward-thinking approach in medicine: creating treatments that are more focused, effective, and adaptable.

As we continue our battle against cancer, combining different therapies like this could be the key to achieving more lasting and effective results, moving us closer to making cancer a treatable, and perhaps even curable, condition.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *