Biomedical engineers at Duke University have demonstrated that metastatic cancer cells can reprogram their metabolism to thrive in new organs. Specifically, the research shows that cells originating from colorectal cancer change their dietary habits to capitalize on the high levels of fructose often found in the liver.
Cancer becomes much more deadly once it spreads to different parts of the body, yet treatments don’t take their location into account.
One group of metabolic genes stood out in particular, those involved in the metabolism of fructose. This struck the researchers because many Western diets are rich in fructose, which is found in corn syrup and all types of processed foods.
To feed on fructose, cancer cells need to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down fructose, called ALDOB, a trick they can quickly learn from the liver itself. Once the cancer cells figure out how to rewire themselves to gorge on the fructose, they proliferate out of control and become unstoppable.