Sugar and Cancer: Scientists Find Link

By: | October 28th, 2017

In a big breakthrough, scientists have found the relationship between sugar and cancer. They have found sugar to be the root cause of tumor growth.

This remarkable research project was conducted by Belgium’s VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). They have discovered the way cancer cells metabolize sugar.

Every cell in our body requires energy, which they get from the sugar in our diet. Cancer cells also require sugar, but their glucose requirement is much higher than that of normal cells. This mechanism of cancer cells speedily metabolizing sugar is known as the Warburg effect.

Scientists are wondering whether the Warburg effect is a symptom or a cause of cancer.

Johan Thevelein, from Belgium’s VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology, said, “Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth. Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor 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.”

The team used yeast cells for its research, as yeast cells contain “Ras” proteins, which are commonly found in tumor cells. In the research, scientists found that excess sugar resulted in the production of overactive and fast-growing Ras proteins by the yeast.

Thevelein said, “The main advantage of using yeast was that our research was not affected by the additional regulatory mechanisms of mammalian cells, which conceal crucial underlying processes. We were thus able to target this process in yeast cells and confirm its presence in mammalian cells.”

Although the research is very exciting, there are still more questions to be answered, such as how increased intake of sugar increases cancer growth, or how to starve cancer cells while keeping healthy cells functioning.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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