A nine-year joint research project initiated in 2008 by scientists from three Belgian universities, Free University of Brussels, Catholic University of Leuven and Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, has led to new discoveries of how the Warburg effect, a phenomenon in which cancer cells rapidly break down sugars, stimulate tumor growth.
The Warburg effect is one of the most prominent features of cancer cells. This phenomenon has been extensively studied and even used to detect brain tumors among other applications. While earlier research into cancer cell metabolism focused on mapping out peculiarities, this study clarifies the link between metabolic deviation and oncogenic potency in cancerous cells.
Professor Johan Thevelein, one of the lead scientist involved in the study states, “Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth. Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness. This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences. Our results provide a foundation for future research in this domain, which can now be performed with a much more precise and relevant focus.”