After a 9 year-research, scientists have finally found the exact relationship between sugar and cancer. They finally explained how cancer cells break down sugar and how exactly the sugar helps for a tumor growth.
Here is the simple explanation:
Cancer cells are producing their energy by fermentation (a different way, than the normal cells) – an oxygen-free way that transfers glucose into lactate. The cancer cells require more sugar and less oxygen than the healthy cells. They also absorb sugar much faster. This mechanism is known as the Warburg effect – a process of a cancer cell breaking down and absorbing sugar.
Professor Johan Thevelein, from Belgium’s VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology, stated that their research showed how the hyperactive sugar consumption can lead to stimulation of cancer development. He said that the connection between the Warburg effect and tumor growth is finally explained and it really makes sense. He added that further research will be much more accurate and focused on the tumor growth.
For the research, the scientists used yeasts (single-celled microorganisms), because just like the cancer cells, the yeast cells produce energy from absorbing sugar through fermentation. Cancer and yeast cells both contain the “Ras” proteins which is used to control the cell growth. If the genes that control the proteins mutate, this can cause cells growth and hence rapid increase in the cancer cells.
Professor Thevelein said that using yeasts is an advantage, because the research wasn’t affected by the additional regulatory mechanisms of mammalian cells (they conceal crucial underlying processes). Hopefully, this data will be very helpful for the future cancer research. As the professor said, this is just one step and the breakthrough in a research is not like a breakthrough in the medicine.
It isn’t known for sure if the Warburg effect could affect tumor growth or it was just a symptom. At that moment the research has proven the connection between cancer and sugar, but it’s very important to know that sugar doesn’t cause cancer.