Searching on internet for sugar and cancer, you’ll find alarming warnings that sugar is the “white death” and “cancer’s favorite food”.
However this theory that sugar is responsible for kick-starting or fueling a cancer’s growth is very simplified.
According to the results of the nine years study at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology, scientists defined the exact relationship between sugar and cancer. They found the exact way how the cancer cells break down sugar, which is linked to the stimulation of tumor growth.
They discovered that the cancer cells produce energy differently, by using a process that involves fermentation of glucose into lactate, while the normal cells use ordinary respiration.
In order to survive, every cell in the body needs sugar, however, cancer cells require more than healthy cells do. Cancer cells break sugar down faster, which is a phenomenon known as the Warburg effect.
The biggest wonder of scientists was about the linkage with the aggressive tumors grow.
The author of the study Professor Johan Thevelein, from Belgium, explains that this research reveals how the overactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a stimulation of cancer development and growth.
This correlation between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences, which explains the link between the strength of the tumor aggressiveness and Warburg effect. The results of this study provide a foundation for future research in this area, which can be performed precisely.
Before this study, it wasn’t clear whether the Warburg effect was just a symptom of cancer, or it could affect tumor growth. Now it is clear that the Warburg effect actually stimulates the growth of cancerous tumors, however, it doesn’t mean that sugar causes cancer. The results of this study are published in the journal Nature Communications.
Their research is based on using yeast as a model organism, as it produces energy from sugar via fermentation, similar to cancer cells do. Yeast is rich in the “Ras” proteins that are, also found in cancer.
Ras proteins have the responsibility in our bodies to control cell growth. By mutating the genes, Ras proteins can become permanently active, which causes too much cell growth including the uncontrolled multiplying of cancer cells.
This method helps the researchers to follow the relationship between the high sugar metabolism and Ras.
The results of this study are significant for the future of cancer research because it proves more knowledge about cancer’s relationship with sugar. However, that development in research does not necessarily equal a breakthrough in the medicine, as there are still questions that remain unanswered.