February 22, 2016
358 Three Theories of Cancer [22 Feb. 2016]
Otto Warburg, considered the greatest biochemist of the 20th century, was awarded the 1931 Nobel Prize for his discovery that cancer cells use an anaerobic fermentation process for energy metabolism. Even in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells use this inefficient process almost exclusively rather than the more efficient aerobic respiration used by normal cells. Warburg believed this reversion of energy production, from aerobic to anaerobic, was the prime cause of cancer, a theory that became known as the Metabolic Theory of Cancer.
Decades earlier, in the late 1870s, a German medical researcher, David Paul von Hansemann applied a newly discovered cellular dye to cancer cells and observed that their chromosomes were abnormal and chaotic rather than orderly as in normal cells. By 1890 Hansemann had developed the beginning of what came to be called the Somatic Theory of Cancer (“somatic” refers to the cell nucleus), that mutations to the nuclear DNA were the cause of cancer.
In 1911 an American pathologist, Peyton Rous, discovered that a virus could induce cancer in chickens, creating a third competing theory. This caused a wave of speculation that cancer could be an infectious disease like smallpox and polio, but was ignored and soon forgotten when no human cancer viruses turned up.
The three theories each had their following during the first half of the 20th century. Then came Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA and all attention focused on genetics. The goal became to discover the genetic mutations causing a particular cancer and create a drug to counteract them. These drugs – various forms of chemotherapy – have been largely disappointing with limited life extension and significant side effects.
Then in 1976 two American researchers, Harold Varmus and Michael Bishop, discovered that cancer-causing viruses worked by inserting a mutated human gene into the cell nucleus, effectively amalgamating the viral and somatic theories and relegating the metabolic theory to the dustbin.
Fortunately the metabolic theory hasn’t stayed in oblivion but has been kept alive and further developed by a few researchers, notably Peter Pederson and Thomas Seyfried. Next week I will outline the case for, and the promise and hope of, the resurrected metabolic theory.
Source: Tripping over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer by Travis Christofferson, 2014.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. See this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.