The following is courtesy of Dr. Mercola
In 1931, Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells.
Most experts consider him to be the greatest biochemist of the 20th century. His lab staff also included Hans Krebs, Ph. D., after whom the Krebs cycle1 was named.
The Krebs cycle refers to the oxidative reduction pathways that occur in the mitochondria. So just how does the metabolic inflexibility of cancer cells differ from healthy cells?
A cell can produce energy in two ways: aerobically, in the mitochondria, or anaerobically, in the cytoplasm, the latter of which generates lactic acid — a toxic byproduct. Warburg discovered that in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells overproduce lactic acid. This is known as The Warburg Effect.
Warburg concluded that the prime cause of cancer was the reversion of energy production from aerobic energy generation to a more primitive form of energy production, anaerobic fermentation.
To reverse cancer, he believed you had to disrupt the energy production cycle that is feeding the tumor, and that by reverting back to aerobic energy metabolism you could effectively “starve” it into remission.
Warburg’s discovery is that cancer cells are primarily fueled by the burning of sugar anaerobically. Without sugar, most cancer cells simply lack the metabolic flexibility to survive. As noted in the New York Times (NYT) featured article:
“[T]he Warburg effect is estimated to occur in up to 80 percent of cancers. [A] positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which has emerged as an important tool in the staging and diagnosis of cancer works simply by revealing the places in the body where cells are consuming extra glucose.
In many cases, the more glucose a tumor consumes, the worse a patient’s prognosis.”
The Warburg Revival
In recent years, scientists have come to realize that it’s not the genetic defects that cause cancer. Rather mitochondrial damage happens first, which then triggers nuclear genetic mutations. As noted by The New York Times:
“There are typically many mutations in a single cancer. But there are a limited number of ways that the body can produce energy and support rapid growth. Cancer cells rely on these fuels in a way that healthy cells don’t.
The hope of scientists at the forefront of the Warburg revival is that they will be able to slow — or even stop — tumors by disrupting one or more of the many chemical reactions a cell uses to proliferate, and, in the process, starve cancer cells of the nutrients they desperately need to grow.
Even James Watson, Ph.D. one of the fathers of molecular biology, is convinced that targeting metabolism is a more promising avenue in current cancer research than gene-centered approaches …
Cancer-Causing Genes Regulate Cells’ Nutrient Consumption
Scientists have discovered that a number of genes known to promote cancer by influencing cell division — including a gene called AKT — also regulate cells’ consumption of nutrients. So certain genes do appear to play a role in cancer cells’ overconsumption of sugar.
“Dr. Craig Thompson, the president and chief executive of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has been among the most outspoken proponents of this renewed focus on metabolism …
His research showed that cells need to receive instructions from other cells to eat, just as they require instructions from other cells to divide.
Thompson hypothesized that if he could identify the mutations that lead a cell to eat more glucose than it should, it would go a long way toward explaining how the Warburg effect and cancer begin,” The New York Times writes.
“The protein created by AKT is part of a chain of signaling proteins that is mutated in up to 80 percent of all cancers. Thompson says that once these proteins go into overdrive, a cell no longer worries about signals from other cells to eat; it instead stuffs itself with glucose.
Thompson discovered he could induce the ‘full Warburg effect’ simply by placing an activated AKT protein into a normal cell. When that happens, Thompson says, the cells begin to do what every single-celled organism will do in the presence of food: eat as much as it can and make as many copies of itself as possible.”
Whereas healthy cells have a feedback mechanism that makes it conserve resources when there’s a lack of food, cancer cells do not have this mechanism, and feed continuously.
As noted by Dr. Chi Van Dang, director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, cancer cells are “addicted to nutrients,” and “when they can’t consume enough, they begin to die.”
Novel Treatment Offers Hope for Cancer Patients
A brilliant Korean biochemist by the name of Young Hee Ko, Ph.D., who was working in the early 2000s with Peter Pedersen, a professor of biological chemistry and oncology at Johns Hopkins, made a remarkable discovery that offers a great deal of hope for cancer patients. Today Ko is the CEO of KODiscovery at the University of Maryland BioPark.
What the two of them noticed was that when cancer cells overproduce lactic acid, they have to produce more pores to let lactic acid out, or else the cancer cell will die from the inside out. As mentioned, lactic acid is a very toxic substance. Pondering how to best exploit this functional difference, Ko remembered a compound called 3-bromopyruvate (3BP), which she’d worked with while getting her Ph.D.
This molecule looks very similar to lactic acid, but it’s highly reactive. She thought 3BP might be able to slip into the pore that’s allowing the lactic acid to be expelled from the cancer cell, thereby preventing the lactic acid from spilling out. Her hunch was correct. In over 100 lab tests, 3BP blew away all of the chemotherapy drugs she used for comparison. In a nutshell, 3BP “melts” tumors away by preventing the lactic acid from leaking out of the cancer cell, thereby killing it from the inside.
The Importance of Diet for Successful Cancer Treatment..
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~ In Good Health! ♥