Every cell in the body needs sugar to survive. But cancer cells seem to require more than healthy cells do. They also seem to break sugar down faster. Cancer’s mechanism of quickly and efficiently metabolizing sugar is known as the Warburg effect.
In fact, we’ve know about the Warburg since the 1920’s when Otto Warburg and colleagues observed tumors taking up enormous amounts of glucose compared to what was seen in the surrounding tissue. Additionally, glucose was fermented to produce lactate even in the presence of oxygen, thus the term aerobic glycolysis.
Scientists have long pondered whether this phenomenon is related to how aggressively tumors grow and how cancer cells ferment sugar rather than using the normal mechanisms that cells use to produce energy. It is this fermentation process that has now been positively linked to continually encouraging tumor growth.
According to one of the researchers, Prof. Johan Thevelein:
“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.”
These findings are very exciting in terms of the future of cancer research. What does this mean for us now? It also suggests that diet can also play a strong role in slowing and stopping cancer and that we can take more control over our own cancer treatment and prevention.