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What is wrong with the following chain of reasoning?

  1. Nearly all cancer cells rely on high rates of glucose uptake (upto 200 times more than normal cells). This is known as the the Warburg effect.
  2. There is only one cell type in the human body that is obligated to use glucose - red blood cells (erythrocytes).
  3. Starve cancer cells of their only energy source by inducing hypoglycaemia in the patient, preserving red blood cells using, for example, erythrocytapheresis or an oxygen-carrying substitute.

I understand that to completely eliminate a tumour such a regime would need to be in place for an extended period, but would like to know why such a treatment isn't feasible in theory?

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    $\begingroup$ neurons also need glucose.. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Apr 25 '14 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ Theoretically you could infuse glucose into the CSF and prevent hydrocephalus by creating a shunt. $\endgroup$ – AndroidPenguin Apr 25 '14 at 8:19
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The human body needs energy (ATP) for even the most basic function. I guess when you decrease glucose levels (which is broken down for ATP), you will be in affect taking away the ability of the body to function normally by depriving it of energy. This is my theory so I would be happy to if someone with more information on the topic could tell me if I am right or wrong.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think Kelvin is suggesting the use of beta oxidation to yield ATP from fats. $\endgroup$ – AndroidPenguin Apr 25 '14 at 8:18
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As a type 1 diabetic for 39 years I can only say that hypoglycaemia is a life threatening state which any of us tries to avoid as much as possible.

  1. Any untreated episode of hypoglycaemia can easily lead to diabetic coma and irreversible brain damage.
  2. When encountering low blood sugar, the organism anyway releases sugar stored in liver just for that case, so prolonged artificially induced hypoglycemia would place a lot (i imagine unsustainable) stress on liver. Not sure, but I suspect it would lead to liver failure.
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