Nine-Year Collaboration Has Just Shown How Sugar Influences Cancer Cell Growth

By Science Alert

There's a long-known relationship between cancer and sugar, but figuring out exactly how it works has proven elusive. Now, thanks to a nine-year research project, scientists have made a breakthrough.1

They've narrowed down the mechanism whereby cancer cells metabolise sugar.

The focus of the new research was on a metabolic effect that has been understood for over 90 years.

We know that almost all the cells in the human body require energy, and they derive this energy from the sugars in the food we eat. Cancer cells also require sugars to grow. But their glucose intake is a lot higher than that of healthy cells, as is the rate at which they ferment that glucose into lactic acid.

This is known as the Warburg effect2, and it may, scientists have hypothesised, have something to do with cancer's rapid growth rate. But it's hard to determine whether the Warburg effect is a symptom or a cause of cancer.

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Nature Article

  • [1]Peeters, K., Leemputte, F.V., Fischer, B., Bonini, B.M., Quezada, H., Tsytlonok, M., Haesen, D., Vanthienen, W., Bernardes, N., Gonzalez-Blas, C.B., Janssens, V., Tompa, P., Versées, W., & Thevelein, J.M. (2017, October 13). Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate couples glycolytic flux to activation of Ras. Nature Communications , 8(922). doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01019-z. Retrieved from
  • [2]Libert, M.V., & Locasale, J.W. (2016, March). The Warburg Effect: How Does it Benefit Cancer Cells?. Trends in Biochemical Sciences , 41(3), 211-218. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2015.12.001. Retrieved from


Abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth in a part of the body, many types. Another of the chronic diseases.

SugarScience Glossary


Sugars are chemicals made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen found which taste sweet and are found in food. They are an important part of what we eat and drink and of our bodies. On this site, sugar is used to mean simple sugars (monosaccharides) like fructose or glucose, and disaccharides like table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is two simple sugars stuck together for example (see Table sugar). Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are energy sources for our bodies Sugars enter the blood stream very quickly after being eaten.

SugarScience Glossary


Glucose is a sugar we eat. It is found in starch. It is the main fuel for our bodies. It is the sugar measured when we have a blood test to measure the blood sugar.

SugarScience Glossary


Rapid loss of blood supply to a portion of the brain causing brain damage. This may lead to difficulty with memory, thought, speech, sensation, and movement. Stroke is usually due to blockage of blood vessels in the neck or brain. It is more common as people age, and is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

SugarScience Glossary