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Why can't the knowledge of ketone bodies be used as a form of cancer treatment?   - So...

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Wilson2014 | eNotes Employee

Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:08 PM via web

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Why can't the knowledge of ketone bodies be used as a form of cancer treatment?

 

- So ketone bodies are derived from fatty acids when the body is low on carbohydrates and need to find some form of energy. Although most cells in the human body have all essential enzymes to convert ketone bodies to acetyl-CoA to be utilized as energy, but I think I read somewhere that cancer cells lack an enzyme (beta-ketoacyl-CoA transferase I believe) that prevents it from being able to use ketone bodies as an energy source. So what are the reasons for not being able to use a low carbohydrate diet as a form of cancer treatment? (One reason is that there will be a very low pH in blood but is there no method for us to overcome that?)

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ncchemist | eNotes Employee

Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:56 PM (Answer #1)

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Actually, it appears that there is active research going on in this area right now.  The link below shows a paper from a study where a high fat, low carbohydrate diet (in other words, a ketogenic diet) was tested to try to essentially starve malignant cancer cells.  They found that the cancer cells weren't able to process ketone bodies for food but the survival rates were not improved for the mice tested.  My guess would be that in order to starve cancer cells, the conditions would need to be so severe that you would essentially starve and destroy an already weakened individual.

There is a possibility, however, that this affect could be used in another way.  Cancer cells reproduce so quickly compared to regular cells that they require large amounts of energy.  So cancer cells undergo glycolysis (the initial step of cellular respiration where a glucose in converted into two pyruvate molecules) at upwards of 200 times the rate of normal cells.  This is called the Warburg effect.  So a drug that could effectively inhibit glycolysis could posssibly be used to starve and kill cancer cells if it is able to be effectively administered to the malignant cells and leave most of the healthy cells alone.

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