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Cancer & Fructose

August 16, 2010

Cancer cells selectively use fructose to divide and proliferate.


How fructose fuels cancer…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Americans now consume about as much fructose as glucose, mostly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. A new study suggests this may be a sweet deal – for cancer. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose and glucose in different ways. Neurosurgeon Anthony Heaney explains the key finding.

ANTHONY HEANEY (Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA):
Fructose, by far and away, in comparison to glucose, was used in a pathway to make sugars for nucleic acid synthesis – that’s to build RNA and DNA, to replicate genes.

That’s how cancer cells divide and spread, rather than just sustain themselves. The result may explain why refined fructose, in particular, has been linked to pancreatic cancer risk. And Heaney suspects that other kinds of cancer use fructose in the same way. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.