Cancer As A Metabolic Disorder

Cancer As A Metabolic Disorder


Cancer has always been treated as a disorder of proliferation but recent studies and evidence have established the possibility of considering cancer to be a metabolic disease. The tumors growing during cancer change their metabolic aspects to meet the demand of continuous cell growth. The metabolic profile of cancer cells shows the increased consumption of glucose and glutamine, increased glycolysis, and changes in the use of metabolic enzymes. The metabolism of the very cancerous cells can be manipulated and used to provide therapeutic treatment for the various types of cancer.

Table of content:

  •     Cancer risk and metabolism
  •     Can tumor metabolism be used for cancer treatment?

Cancer risk and metabolism

Errors arising due to the metabolism of cells can result in different types of cancer. The metabolic mechanism of cancer cells can be used to further support the cancerous phenotype of the cells.

The idea that cancer is caused due to dysfunctional proliferation is widely accepted and recent research and discoveries have shown that metabolic disorders also contribute to the development of several cancers.

According to the research of Otto Warburg, the metabolism of tumor cells varies greatly from the non-cancerous cells. His research stated the difference in energy consumption between the normal and the cancerous cells. In normal cells, most pyruvate is oxidized via oxidative phosphorylation after it enters the tricarboxylic acid cycle. However, in cancer cells, most of the pyruvate is converted into lactic acid which then tends to produce energy aerobically. This is also known as aerobic glycolysis or the Warburg effect.

There are a number of changes that can be seen in the metabolism of cancerous cells. These include:

  •     Increase in citrate generation
  •     Increase of intracellular and extracellular lactate generation
  •     Increased intracellular glucose and glutamine generation

It is also proved that an increase in glucose consumption and increase lactate secretion in tumor cells increases the risks of the growth of tumors.

Can tumor metabolism be used for cancer treatment?

There has been a lot of advancement in technology for cancer treatment which includes the specific targeting of an activated oncogene with the aim to achieve remission of cancer. Metabolic-based cancer therapies could be more effective compared to gene-based therapy as the shift in metabolism in tumors is more common than to genes. The resistance to metabolism-based therapy is less compared to the gene-based therapies.

There are multiple methods that can be used to reduce the glycolytic flux of tumor cells which need to be maintained during cancer therapies which are:

  •     Low-carbohydrate diets to reduce the extracellular glucose levels
  •     Lonidamine to help convert the glucose into hexose
  •     Using PKM2 activators or inhibitors to regulate the pyruvate levels

It is also stated that inhibiting the growth of the tumors can be possible by impeding glycolysis to force pyruvate towards oxidative pathways and reduce lactate generation.

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