Sugar accelerates cancers growth

Posted on 2017-10-19

A new study has proven that sugar and cancer go hand in hand. The 9-year long research confirms that sugar helps cancers grow at a much faster rate than normal cells but fortunately we have discovered the gene responsible for this.

The Warburg effect is the name given to the metabolic effect cancer cells has on sugar and has been understood for 90 years. Cancer cells rewire themselves to increase their intake of glucose to grow at an elevated rate to healthy cells. However, is it not known whether the Warburg effect is a symptom or a cause of cancer.

Starving cancer cells of sugar could cause a stunt in their growth but healthy cells also require sugar. As of yet, there is no way to inhibit cancer cell's ability to intake sugar whilst leaving healthy cells unaffected. Discovering the gene responsible for the Warburg effect is a crucial step in the right direction to directly stop the growth of cancer cells. 

"Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth," said researcher Johan Thevelein from KU Leuven in Belgium.

"Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumour aggressiveness. This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences. Our results provide a foundation for future research in this domain, which can now be performed with a much more precise and relevant focus."

In their research, they focused on the Ras gene family, a set of genes present in all animal cells. They used yeast cells and studied its sugar metabolism to observe the Ras genes.

"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," Thevelein said.

"The findings are not sufficient to identify the primary cause of the Warburg effect," he added. "Further research is needed to find out whether this primary cause is also conserved in yeast cells."

This is still exciting news. This research is a break-through in an area that has been studied for 90 years. Potentially, it could hold the secret to treat multiple different cancers.

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