Cancer Loves Sugar

We have been told for years that cancer is a genetic disease:

Cancer is a genetic disease—that is, cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide.

While there are definitely some cancers that are primarily governed by inherited genetic traits, newer information shows that many of the genetic abnormalities of most cancers are often effects, not causes.

Many scientists over the years have known about cancer’s propensity to use glucose for fuel at a much higher rate.  In fact, if you or anyone you have known that has gone through cancer diagnosis and management, a PET scan is likely to have come up in many cases.  The mouthful abbreviation used most often is PET/CT FDG Scan (PET=positron emission tomography. CT= computed tomography. FDG =2-Deoxy-2-[18 F]fluoro-D-Glucose).  The FDG part of that is a radioactive marker attached to glucose so it can be utilized in the cells as glucose normally would, and when it is can be displayed on the screen to see where glucose utilization is high.  Where is glucose utilization higher than anywhere else?  CANCER!  This propensity to burn glucose at a higher level than other cells is known as the Warburg Effect, after Otto Warburg, who figured this out in the early 1900’s.  So, while we have been calling it a genetic disease, with our words and our government-funded research dollars, it has been known for a very long time that there is more to the picture than one’s genes.  I highly encourage reading Tripping over the Truth by Travis Christofferson if you want the whole story on this angle.

To understand they why behind the glucose utilization, and how that relates to the many genetic abnormalities found when looking at cancer cells, we have to reach back into high school biology for a few words here.  Our human (eukaryotic) cells have many components, or organelles, inside.  The nucleus is where the DNA and genetic information is stored.  The mitochondria are ancient bacteria-like organelles that are responsible for producing the cellular energy currency called ATP.  The mitochondria also have their own DNA (mtDNA) which are inherited exclusively from the maternal side of the genome.  The mitochondria have a pronounced impact on our gene expression and cellular health, as they are signaling constantly to the rest of the cell. With the biology refresher complete, the work of Dr. Thomas Seyfried can be cited to present the closing argument.  In the picture below from a 2010 article,  the circles represent the mitochondria, the inside of the circle represents the Inner Mitochondrial Membrane (IMM), which is supposed to have many folds when healthy.


What this shows is that after a mitochondrial insult of some type, and the resultant degradation of the IMM, all of the Cancer Hallmarks follow.

The bottom part of the picture is how we explain the increased glucose utilization seen in cancer and also our opening to make an impact.  OxPhos (oxidative phosphorylation) is the process mitochondria use to make ATP from oxygen.  SLP (substrate level phosphorylation) is energy production pathways outside of the mitochondria.  Cells can make ATP from glucose outside the mitochondria anaerobically (without oxygen) which is termed glycolysis (you may have had to utilize this pathway your self on a heavy cardio day at the gym).  The problem with this pathway is that it is very low yield, only netting 2 ATP per glucose molecule whereas OxPhos nets in the mid 30’s.  So, if the cell is failing over to SLP they will need copious amounts more glucose, and that is what you see on the PET scan.

Since all the cancer traits occur downstream from the mitochondrial breakdown, our opportunity to make an impact on these cells is to influence their fuel supply.  This opportunity is valid for those with diagnosed cancer and those who want to try and prevent pre-cancerous cells from progressing.  Our service has been used successfully to beat back cancer (testimonial here), and we would be glad to work with you as well!


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