Heaney found that the pancreatic cancer cells could easily distinguish between glucose and fructose even though they are very similar structurally, and contrary to conventional wisdom, the cancer cells metabolized the sugars in very different ways. In the case of fructose, the pancreatic cancer cells used the sugar in the transketolase-driven non-oxidative pentose phosphate pathway to generate nucleic acids, the building blocks of RNA and DNA, which the cancer cells need to divide and proliferate.
"Traditionally, glucose and fructose have been considered as interchangeable monosaccharide substrates that are similarly metabolized, and little attention has been given to sugars other than glucose," the study states. "However, fructose intake has increased dramatically in recent decades and cellular uptake of glucose and fructose uses distinct transporters These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation. They have major significance for cancer patients, given dietary refined fructose consumption."
As in anti-smoking campaigns, a federal effort should be launched to reduce refined fructose intake, Heaney said.
"I think this paper has a lot of public health implications," Heaney said. "Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of HFCS in our diets."
Heaney said that while this study was done in pancreatic cancer, these finding may not be unique to that cancer type.
Going forward, Heaney and his team are exploring whether it's possible to block the uptake of fructose in the cancer cells with a small molecule, taking away one of the fuels they need to grow. The work is being done i
|Contact: Kim Irwin|
University of California - Los Angeles