Study Explains How Cancer's 'Sweet Tooth' Is Related To Tumor Aggressiveness


Scientists have discovered how the rapid growth of cancer cells is associated with the consumption of sugar. The recent discovery could enable other scientists to delve deeper into the mysteries of how cancer cells develop.

Sugar Consumption Causes Cancer Cells To Grow Faster

A new finding published in the journal Nature Communications has indicated that sugar consumption may cause cancer cells to develop faster. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells have the ability to produce energy by converting sugar into lactate, a process known as the "Warburg effect". However, this does not mean that consuming sugar directly causes cancer.

The discovery is related to a nine-year project that began in Belgium in 2008, led by Johan Thevelein of VIB-KU Leuven, Wim Versées of VIB-VUB and Veerle Janssens of KU Leuven.

Warburg Effect

The Warburg effect is a phenomenon that was first observed by Otto Warburg back in the 1920's. This effect is observed in cancer cells when the cells ferment glucose into lactic acid using glycolysis. The cancer cells, unlike healthy ones, require a larger amount of sugar to survive.

Scientists have been trying to study this effect for quite some time now, but they weren't able to figure out whether it is related to the stimulation of tumor growth.

Yeast As "A Model Organism"

Researchers were able to clarify how sugar consumption of cancerous cells is related to cancer development using yeast as a "model organism". Yeast has the same "Ras" proteins commonly found in cancerous cells, according to the researchers.

"We observed in yeast that sugar degradation is linked via the intermediate fructose 1,6-biophosphate to the activation of Ras proteins, which stimulate the multiplication of both yeast and cancer cells. It is striking that this mechanism has been conserved throughout the long evolution of yeast cell to human," said Thevelein.

Thevelein added that more research is still required to figure out the main cause of the Warburg effect and whether it "is also conserved in yeast cells".

Future Research: How To Fight Cancer Cells?

It has been suggested that one of the things scientists can do to kill cancer cells in the body is to starve them to death. This can be done by depriving the cancer cells of glucose intake. However, it is said that cancer cells always find other ways to refill their tanks.

According to a research published in early 2015, decreasing the levels of PARP 14 protein in cancerous cells can be used as a way to starve the cells to death. Also, the good thing about the use of PARP 14 inhibitors is that they would only kill cancer cells without touching the healthy ones.

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