Starving Cancer Cells Of Sugar : Does It Work?

Previous studies have shown that cancer cells divide rapidly requires a higher level of sugar than healthy cells.

Therefore, to starving cancer cells, cancer patients limit their intake of sugar.

Sugar Addiction is what differentiates cancer cells from normal cells, and is often used as a treatment option to kill cancer cells.

In fact, the results are not so encouraging.

starving cancer cells

Not all types of cancer cells sensitive to the removal of the sugar, and even for sensitive cancers, thinning sugar only slow the spread of cancer.

The pathway that makes cancer cells sensitive to the shortage of sugar remain poorly understood.

In a study led by the Singapore team under Duke-NUS Associate Professor Koji Itahana, along with collaborators team led by Dr. Egon Ogris from Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL), Austria, they have shown for the first time a new cell death pathway which describes how the depletion of sugar causes cancer cell death.

The article was published in the January issue of Science Signaling.

The new role of glucose, in addition to starving cancer cells

It has long been believed that sugar serves as one of the main energy source of cancer cells.

However, the team found that in some cancer cells, small amounts of sugar, which are unable to provide enough energy, can support cancer cell survival.

This means that there is an unknown sugar role for survival cancer cells, in addition to the role of energy provider.

The team then found that sugar has the function of providing new signaling in cancer cells, where shortcomings will trigger a voltage difference in the cancer cell membrane.

This causes the flow of calcium ions into cells that then lead to cancer cell death.

A new therapeutic approach to cancer in the future

The team speculates that the unique properties of sugar in cancer cells can be manipulated to new therapeutic approaches.

By combining inhibition of sugar intake and increased calcium levels in cancer cells, they kill cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact.


Itahana and colleagues also found that some cancer cells lose the ability to maintain intracellular sugar levels after losing sugar.

They suspect that is the main reason why not all the cancer cells sensitive to the shortage of sugar.

By applying a combination treatment with the appropriate types of cancer cells, it could be a combination of new treatments against cancer.

The research team aims to extend their results to develop new cancer treatments in the future.

New combination therapy based on these findings is in international patent application No. PCT / SG2017 / 050208 for “A potential combination therapy using an inhibitor of glucose transport and an intracellular calcium inducer to target cancer metabolism.”