Understanding how normal and cancer cells grow

All body cells require glucose (a unique sugar) and glutamine (a specific amino acid) as the fuels for their biological growth. During digestion, the body breaks down food carbohydrates and proteins into their fundamental building blocks – sugars and amino acids. Biological development can occur only after these building blocks have been absorbed into the bloodstream.

Oftentimes, when complex research is communicated to the public, simplistic terms are used to describe intricate details understood by only those working in the research area. Headlines like “cancer needs sugar to grow” or advice like “cancer patients should avoid sugar” are misunderstood and easily misinterpreted by the public.

Instead of using the precise term “blood glucose” or “glucose” to describe this source of energy required for cancer cell growth, adoption of the shorthand term “sugar” is common. Confusion arises because sucrose, the accurate name for table sugar, is well-known by consumers as sugar. Employing the generic term “sugar” creates confusion when consumers read reports about scientific discoveries, especially in such an area as cancer research.

The main difference between normal cells and cancer cells is cancer cells grow considerably more rapidly than normal cells. Understanding the biology of cancer cell growth, and how it differs from non-cancer cell growth, is a scientific priority. Deciphering the nutrition and genetic influences on cancer cell growth is the first phase in the development of cancer treatment strategies.

It is important to remember sucrose is just one of the digestible carbohydrates in the American diet. Intact undigested sucrose cannot enter human blood flow. Sucrose must be digested before it can be utilized by the body. It is biologically impossible for any cells, including cancer cells, to use undigested sucrose as an energy source. Only the glucose present in the bloodstream can provide the energy required for all cellular growth.