What is “Cancer”?

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What is “Cancer”?

In order to know how to take care of a problem, one must first understand what the problem is and how it came to be of concern. Then and only then can one establish a rational method of solving the problem, hence the title of this section, What is “Cancer”? 

Although described by the ancient Egyptians and found in the bones of mummies, it was Hippocrates (“Father of Medicine”) who first used the terms carcinos and carcinoma when referring to non-ulcer-forming and ulcer-forming tumors. In the Greek language, these words mean, “crab”. Supposedly, named this because of the finger-like spreading projections from a tumor. Celsus (28-50 BC) translated ‘crab’ into Latin, which is “cancer”. About one hundred years later, an Italian physician, Galen (130-200 AD), began to use the Greek word, “onkos”, meaning “mass” or “burden” and it has become the root word for the field of study known as oncology; the study of ‘cancer’.


In 1931, a German chemist and physician was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his “discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme.” Specifically, he discovered that tumors produce large quantities of lactic acid, meaning that they are fermenting glucose rather than using the more efficient method of “oxidative phosphorylation” (“ox-phos”) that utilizes glucose as a fuel together with oxygen. Therefore, rather than producing 36 molecules of energy (ATP) from one molecule of glucose during ‘ox-phos’, the simple fermentation of glucose without oxygen results in only two energy molecules (ATP). Otto Warburg said in a speech, “Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by fermentation of sugar.”

As can be seen on the left, in the presence of oxygen, glucose turns to pyruvate and enters the mitochondria along with oxygen producing 36 ATP whereas, when oxygen is not available (for whatever reason) glucose still goes to pyruvate but then to lactate (lactic acid) producing 2 ATP.

On the right side of the graph above, it can be seen that whether or not oxygen is present, the cells of a tumor ferment 85% of the glucose and only 5% is mixed with oxygen in the mitochondria. In fact, this process is known as the “Warburg Effect”, which is the only thing that is common to all ‘cancers’.

Since this is a less efficient method of energy production, the cells must change to obtain 19 times more fuel (glucose). As an adaptative set of responses, the cells signal the nucleus to silence certain genes, turn on others that were previously silenced, and enhance some that were already active in order to successfully meet their energy requirements through the inefficient method of fermentation.

Hence, the abnormalities in growth signaling, which are metabolic pathways well known to exist in cancer cells and to have the unlimited ability to reproduce, are in response to the new metabolic requirements of fermentation.

Otto Warburg in 1956 went on to postulate that mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation in cancer cells are “damaged”, and it is this that leads to the adaptive or compensatory increase of fermentation (glycolysis).

This has been researched and corroborated by many but Thomas Seyfried, PhD of Boston College has become the most well-known and avid proponent to revive Warburg’s discovery and bring it into modern dialogue in oncology.

Dr Seyfried published in 2010 his first paper showing clearly that all of the major hallmarks are linked to impaired mitochondrial function, not mutilations. As an adaptive overall response, cells gradually transition to fermentation using glucose and glutamine as energy sources. In fact, it is extremely rare that mutations cause cancer, and furthermore, the abundance of genetic abnormalities that are found in most cancers arise as a secondary consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction. Of course, once the genes have been mutated, once established, they can contribute further to the mitochondrial defects and to the metabolic requirements of the now successfully fermenting cell.

Since the word cancer produces such an extreme emotional response and is associated with “certain death”, this word should be reserved for its much more pleasant use as a zodiac sun sign. Furthermore, it communicates nothing but fear, which paralyzes the person’s mind, produces extreme sadness, directly depresses the immune system, and prevents the person from functioning as they need to, in a calm and rational manner,  make the most important decision of their life, “what should I do now?”

Therefore, from here on, this adaptive response of cells will no longer be referred to as cancer (the zodiac sun sign), but rather what they actually are, chronically fermenting cells (CFCs). 

Now that we understand what the problem is, we can approach the resolution of it rationally and methodically without causing any more harm to the person or people who are experiencing this problem.

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