Molecular biologists in Belgium have discovered that sugars stimulate tumors growth. The rapid growth of cancer cells was associated with the consumption of sugar.
Researchers from universities in Belgium recently conducted a nine-year experiment that revealed sugar consumption may cause cancer cells to develop faster.
The researchers behind the new study observed yeast cells in the lab and found that their fermentation process, the same one that cancer cells prefer, actually stimulates tumor growth.
Researchers found yeast with high levels of the sugar known as glucose overstimulated the same proteins often found mutated in human tumors, making cells grow faster.
They also discovered that cancer cells appear to feed more quickly on sugar fermentation than aerobic respiration, a process non-cancerous cells use to break down digested food.
Their findings suggest that the most common cancer-causing genes called Ras proteins, fuel aggressive tumors with their sugar intake. In short, sugar “awakens” existing cancer cells, making them multiply and expand rapidly.
Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can produce energy by converting sugar into lactate, a process known as the “Warburg effect.” However, this does not mean that consuming sugar directly causes cancer.
The Warburg effect is observed in cancer cells when the cells ferment glucose into lactic acid using glycolysis. The cancer cells, unlike healthy ones, require a larger amount of sugar to survive.
“The hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth,” lead study author and Belgian molecular biologist Johan Thevelein, a professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
“The findings are not sufficient to identify the primary cause of the Warburg effect,” Thevelein said. “Further research is needed to find out whether this primary cause is also conserved in yeast cells.”
The recent discovery could enable other scientists to delve deeper into the mysteries of how cancer cells develop. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.