It is well understood that people with diabetes have an increased risk for a number of other health complications—including cancer. Last year, when Indiana University School of Medicine researchers demonstrated that inflammation can increase risk for leukemia, they wondered if it was also the culprit that placed people with diabetes at a higher risk for blood cancer. Now, a large research grant will help them find answers.
Reuben Kapur, PhD, has been awarded $2.3 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study the progression of preleukemic stem cells—those bearing certain mutations associated with leukemia—to full-blown cancer in the context of diabetes. They will use the funds to examine and assess cancer progression under conditions of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, in animal models over the next four years.
“Insulin regulates blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes—whose bodies don’t make a sufficient amount of insulin—can easily become hyperglycemic,” said Raghu Mirmira, MD, PhD, diabetes researcher and collaborator for the study. “Over time, hyperglycemia can cause damage to cells and tissues, putting people with diabetes at higher risk for developing other health issues.”
Kapur said that his team hypothesizes that hyperglycemia in blood stem cells and progenitor cells can destabilize the expression of tumor suppression genes, which prevent cancer development.
“When expression of tumor suppressors is lost or destabilized, cells grow uncontrollably and can eventually lead to cancer,” said Kapur. “Our early data suggest that a tumor suppressor called TET2 gets destabilized when exposed to high glucose.”