How Cancer Grows By Parasitically Altering Its Host’s Gut Microbiome

A compelling new study is comparing cancer cell populations to parasites, describing how it can alter the body’s ability to metabolize glucose to create more energy sources that help tumors grow. One of those strategies involves reducing a type of gut bacteria that keeps blood glucose levels in check.

Several studies have revealed a variety of observational links between cancer, obesity and diabetes. One of the frequent associations raised in research is a suggestion that cancer is explicitly linked with increased sugar consumption. Although there is no convincing evidence connecting an increased risk of cancer directly with sugar consumption, we do know on a more fundamental level that glucose is important in powering the cells in our body.

For cancer cells to grow they need a consistent source of glucose. And, for a tumor to really aggressively grow, it needs to both divert glucose from other cells, and stimulate the body to make more glucose readily available. New research from the University of Colorado Cancer Center has revealed, using leukemia as a model, two potential ways the disease alters a body’s metabolism to help it grow.
“Leukemia cells create a diabetic-like condition that reduces glucose going to normal cells, and as a consequence, there is more glucose available for the leukemia cells,” explains Craig Jordan, one of the investigators on the project. “Literally, they are stealing glucose from normal cells to drive growth of the tumor.”