A study by researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has found that pancreatic cancers use the sugar fructose to activate a key cellular pathway that drives cell division, helping the cancer to grow more quickly.
According to Dr. Anthony Heaney, senior author of the study, this is the first time a link has been shown between fructose and cancer proliferation.
For this study, Heaney and his team of researchers took pancreatic tumors from patients and cultured and grew the malignant cells in petri dishes. Glucose was added to one set of cells, while fructose was added to the other set of cells.
Heaney found that the pancreatic cancer cells could easily distinguish between the glucose and fructose even though they are very similar in structure, the cancer cells metabolizing the sugars in different ways. In the case of the fructose, the pancreatic cancer cells used the sugar in the transketolase-driven non-oxidative pentose phosphate pathway to generate nucleic acids, the building blocks of RNA and DNA, which the cancer cells need to divide and proliferate.
Heaney said, "As in anti-smoking campaigns, a federal effort should be launched to reduce refined fructose intake."
Sources of fructose in the Western diet include cane sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS accounts for more than 40% of the caloric sweenteners added to foods and beverages, such as, ketchup, cereal, yougart, cookies, applesauce, bread, canned vegetables, syrup, jelly, crackers, pasta sauces, pickles, soups, soda, etc. Approximately 52,000 items on our grocery shelves contain some degree of HFCS.