More on Sugar and Cancer

Interesting find, via Chris Highcock in my email.

Does sugar feed cancer?
New research sheds light on old saying

SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 17, 2009 — Researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah have uncovered new information on the notion that sugar "feeds" tumors. The findings may also have implications for other diseases such as diabetes. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It’s been known since 1923 that tumor cells use a lot more glucose than normal cells. Our research helps show how this process takes place, and how it might be stopped to control tumor growth," says Don Ayer, Ph.D., a Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator and professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah.

During both normal and cancerous cell growth, a cellular process takes place that involves both glucose (sugar) and glutamine (an amino acid). Glucose and glutamine are both essential for cell growth, and it was long assumed they operated independently, but Ayer’s research shows they are inter-dependent. He discovered that by restricting glutamine availability, glucose utilization is also stopped. "Essentially, if you don’t have glutamine, the cell is short circuited due to a lack of glucose, which halts the growth of the tumor cell" Ayer says.

The research, spearheaded by Mohan Kaadige, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Ayer’s lab, focused on MondoA, a protein that is responsible for turning genes on and off. In the presence of glutamine, MondoA blocks the expression of a gene called TXNIP. TXNIP is thought to be a tumor suppressor, but when it’s blocked by MondoA , it allows cells to take up glucose, which in turn drives tumor growth. Ayer’s research could lead to new drugs that would target glutamine utilization, or target MondoA or TXNIP.

Ayer says the next step in his research is to develop animal models to test his ideas about how MondoA and TXNIP control cell growth. "If we can understand that, we can break the cycle of glucose utilization which could be beneficial in the treatment of cancer," Ayer says.

Well, considering what I call "The Animal Principle," how did we evolve to eat? First we were wild animals, then domesticated. Generally speaking, sugar (glucose) was rare in the diet, while glutamine (an amino acid found in virtually all meats and some plants) must have been abundant. So, then, why focus on short circuiting glutamine when it’s so easy to restrict glucose via a natural very low carbohydrate diet?

Add to this the fact that cancer has been virtually unknown amongst traditional hunter-gatherers and non-industrial peoples (ref: Stephan).

Keep in mind that by sugar, I don’t just mean sugar the white stuff. I mean sugar, all the processed foods and drinks (even fruit juice) that contain it, and things that get metabolized into glucose like starches and grains and all the products that contain them. A low sugar diet is one that focusses on meat, fowl, seafood, natural fats (animal, coconut, olive), non-starchy vegetables, moderate fruit focussed on berries, and maybe some nuts and high-fat dairy. Bottom line? Eat meat, fat, veggies. Be sure to get adequate vitamin D.

I’ve previously posted on the sugary connection to cancer:

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  1. More on Sugar and Cancer on August 18, 2009 at 16:27

    […] More:  More on Sugar and Cancer […]

  2. jacobus on August 18, 2009 at 18:00

    Funny you should mention this today. Coincidentally, the silly New York Times “health” blog “Well” has half a dozen recipes for “healthier” cakes sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Not one of them has less than a cup of sugar…

    • Richard Nikoley on August 18, 2009 at 18:05

      I’ll get to “Well” and Tara Parker-Pope tomorrow on another matter.

      • Matt on August 19, 2009 at 05:53

        Hoo-boy. Lots of material there, whatever to choose??

    • Joe Matasic on August 19, 2009 at 06:11

      That sugar listing is just for the cake. It gets much, much worse once you include the frostings and fillings. Healthy…glad they used the reduced fat cream cheese, canola oil and whole grains. Think I’ll stick to my desert of whiskey, red wine or 85% chocolate if I don’t have a second helping of meat or veggies instead.

  3. Chris on August 18, 2009 at 23:07

    I thought you would like that. You do those posts better than I do!

  4. Anand Srivastava on August 19, 2009 at 00:27

    The remedy is insane. Wouldn’t it also stop any cell creation. This would also stop any cell replacement, resulting in losing all growth, and losing cells slowly.

    I would think letting the liver create the required glucose will contain the tumor, and would allow space for remedies to kill the tumor.

  5. Don Matesz on August 19, 2009 at 08:34

    Another example of researchers who can’t see the forest for the trees. Lost in sugar land. Perhaps they can’t see straight because they had cake for lunch.

  6. Matt on August 19, 2009 at 09:08

    Playing devils advocate here, Anand alludes to a valid point that the liver will make glucose in its dietary absence through gluconeogenesis, so the restriction of sugar alone might not be enough to restrict tumor growth – tumors probably don’t care much where the glucose comes from if they’re going to use them for growth. Perhaps the medication which restricts glutamine availability is helpful in conjunction with a reduced carbohydrate diet.

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