Scientists have clarified how sugar awakens cancers cells and stimulates tumor growth. A nine-year research project conducted by VIB, KU Leuven and VUB has made a crucial breakthrough in cancer research.
This evidence provides a positive correlation between sugar and cancer, which could impact on tailor-made diets for cancer patients.
The research project was started in 2008 under the guidance of Johan Thevelein (VIB-KU Leuven), Wim Versees (VIB-VUB) and Veerle Janssens (KU Leuven) in Belgium. Its main focus was the Warburg effect, a phenomenon in which cancer cells rapidly break downs sugars and makes tumors more aggressive.
While all the cells in the human body obtains the energy from the sugars in the food we eat, cancer cells also requires sugars to grow. But their intake of glucose is very high than healthy cells and they ferments that glucose into lactic acid. This is called as the Warburg effect. But it is not clear yet whether the Warburg effect is a symptom or a cause of cancer.
The team used yeasts cells for the research because these cells contains the same Ras proteins commonly found in all animal cells, including human cancer cells which can cause cancer in mutated form. The team analyzed the relation between Ras activity and the highly active sugar metabolism in yeast.
The team identified that the yeast that had an overactive inundation of glucose made the Ras proteins more active, which would then accelerate the rate of cells growth.
Researcher Johan Thevelein said that the findings are not sufficient to discover the main cause of the Warburg effect and further research is needed.