Cancer cells employ lipid droplets to survive toxic stress.

Lipid reprogramming is a known mechanism to increase the energetic demands of proliferating cancer cells to drive and support tumorigenesis and progression. Elevated lipid droplets (LDs) are a well-known alteration of lipid reprogramming in many cancers, including prostate cancer (PCa), and are associated with high tumor aggressiveness as well as therapy resistance. The mechanism of LD accumulation and specific LD functions are still not well understood; however, it has been shown that LDs can form as a protective mechanism against lipotoxicity and lipid peroxidation in the cell.

This study investigated the significance of LDs in PCa. This was done by staining, imaging, image quantification, and flow cytometry analysis of LDs in PCa cells. Additionally, lipidomics and metabolomics experiments were performed to assess the difference of metabolites and lipids in control and treatment surviving cancer cells. Lastly, to assess clinical significance, multiple publicly available datasets were mined for LD-related data.

Our study demonstrated that prostate and breast cancer cells that survive 72 h of chemotherapy treatment have elevated LDs. These LDs formed in tandem with elevated reactive oxygen species levels to sequester damaged and excess lipids created by oxidative stress, which promoted cell survival. Additionally, by inhibiting diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 1 (DGAT1) (which catalyzes triglyceride synthesis into LDs) and treating with chemotherapy simultaneously, we were able to decrease the overall amount of LDs and increase cancer cell death compared to treating with chemotherapy alone.

Overall, our study proposes a potential combination therapy of DGAT1 inhibitors and chemotherapy to increase cancer cell death.

The Prostate. 2024 Feb 26 [Epub ahead of print]

Laurie G Kostecka, Sabrina Mendez, Melvin Li, Pratik Khare, Cissy Zhang, Anne Le, Sarah R Amend, Kenneth J Pienta

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.