Sugar Relation To Cancer Cells

Catharine Paddock PhD has written an article that was fact checked by Jasmin Collier describing the relationship of cancer cells’ use of sugar and their destruction.  It has been suggested by scientists there is a way to improve treatments that use viruses to attack cancer.

Cancer cells need a lot of glucose and must metabolize it rapidly in order to survive.  Cancer cells are specifically targeted by oncolytic viruses.  They enter cancer cells and use the cells’ machinery for their own multiplication to spread.  Tumors are destroyed from the inside without harming any nearby healthy tissue.  Restricting the cancer cells’ supply of glucose and altering the ability to metabolize, may strengthen the power of oncolytic viruses.

The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom’s research team used mouse models and cells from ovarian, lung and colon tumors to demonstrate the effect.  The study was sponsored by Cancer Research UK and the paper was featured in the journal Cancer Research.  Arthur Dyer, lead study author is currently a PhD student in the university’s oncology department.  He has shown that restricting sugar amounts available to cancer cells makes the cancer-attacking oncolytic viruses work even better.

Glucose is a source of energy for all cells, converting it into units of chemical energy.  These powerhouses are called mitochondria.  However, the cancer cells have a faster process for metabolizing glucose that doesn’t involve mitochondria.  Warburg effect is named after the scientist Otto Warburg, who observed it over 50 years ago.  Exploiting the uniqueness in cancer cells could open fruitful avenues for research into new treatments to develop drugs that target and disable glucose metabolism in cancer cells without stopping healthy cells from making energy.  Once oncolytic viruses are inside the cell their dose increases with time, whereas with drugs it decreases.

In the lab Dyer and his team reduced the glucose levels.  The oncolytic viruses were more effective at attacking cancer cells when there was less glucose around and the viruses replicated faster under the new conditions.  This could improve laboratory testing of candidate drugs.  Adding a drug that hampered the cancer cells’ glucose metabolism strengthened the viruses’ ability fo kill cancer cells even further.  They are planning to test her glucose-limiting approach to see if it could be effective in human patients.

Reducing sugar in the diet would not lead to the anticancer effects shown in the study.  High intakes of dietary sugar raises the risk of obesity which raises the risk of cancer.  Senior study author Leonard W. Seymour, a professor of gene therapies in the university’s oncology department says that carbohydrates are bad, but the case is we need them, and cutting out sugar won’t cure cancer.  Cancer gobbles up glucose quickly and the cells are vulnerable to attack from a drug that targets the sugar pathway.  This effect cannot be achieved by eliminating sugar from the diet.

Dr Fredda Branyon