Why does cancer thrive in an acidic cellular environment?

Christer Sundqvist

Irish researcher Arvind Negi (National University of Galway) asked on the science channel ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/ ) why a cancer cell both develops its own acidity and thrives in an acidic environment. He sparked quite a lively discussion. Here is a summary of the discussion.

Greek breast cancer researcher Constantine Kaniklidis knew that acidification of the cellular microenvironment is a phenomenon known to facilitate the penetration of cancer into healthy tissue through three main mechanisms: 1) destroying healthy cells that hit its path; 2) acid-induced degradation of the extracellular matrix; 3) angiogenesis. Prolonged exposure of healthy cells to the acidic microenvironment results in either sudden (necrosis) or programmed cell death (apoptosis) through p53-dependent and caspase-3-dependent mechanisms. It is quite well known how the acidic metabolites developed by cancer promote the attack of a cancerous tumor on healthy tissue. Healthy cells have a limited ability to survive in an acidic microenvironment while cancerous tumors thrive in it. It appears that cancer cells are able to effectively avoid acid-induced cell death.

Warburg effect in cancer cells

Professor Roberto Leoncini recalled that this is the Warburg effect. By keeping the microenvironment of the cell more basic, cancer growth can be prevented. Russian researcher Sergey Doronin added to this that low pH is an indication that carbonic acid and carbon dioxide are accumulating in tissues. The primary cause of this increase in acidity is incomplete oxidation in the cells, which is reinforced by inadequate blood flow to cancer cells. Lactate (lactic acid) is also easily accumulated in cancer cells, which effectively lowers the pH of the cell. Clinical chemistry researcher Hishyar Azo Najeeb considered it likely that poorly functioning mitochondria in cancer cells are behind everything. American cancer doctor Stephen Strum brought further light to this mitochondrial issue by speculating that the cancer cell deliberately allows the mitochondria to malfunction to secure the cell’s unusually strong transition to anaerobic (anaerobic) metabolism. This preference for anaerobic metabolism is associated with a more sensitive onset of metastasis and a tougher survival ability of cancer cells. The cancer cell does everything it can to survive and spread.

They are actually quite devilish those cancer cells!

Cancer researcher Emily Taylor knew that intracellular reactive metabolites can accumulate in unusually large cancer cells with abnormally lively metabolism. When impaired blood circulation is then added to this, the cancer cell is forced to develop clearance mechanisms against acidity. Cancer cells are able to resist reactive metabolites (ROS) with a special antioxidant response element (ARE). In advanced tumors, cancer cells are able to utilize dietary antioxidants for their own needs. Not to mention that acidity due to lack of oxygen suppresses the immune system’s ability to resist cancer growth. Acid cancer cells are also better protected against radiation treatments. They are actually quite devilish those cancer cells!

The conclusion of the discussion is that the most effective way to fight cancer is to keep the cells as basic as possible, i.e. Otto Warburg was right!

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