In 1931, German scientist Otto H. Warburg earned the Nobel Prize for his theory on the origin of cancer. He believed that that cancer starts from irreversible injury to cellular respiration.
His work eventually fell out of favor, as genomic mutations became the standard model for the cause of uncontrolled cell growth. But seventy-eight years after Warburg received science's highest honor, researchers report new evidence in support of the original Warburg Theory of Cancer.
Healthy cells generate energy by the oxidative breakdown of a simple acid within the mitochondria. Tumors and cancer cells generate energy through the non-oxidative breakdown of glucose, a process called glycolysis. Warburg argued that cancer should therefore be interpreted as a type of mitochondrial disease.
Recently, bioinformatic models were used to compare the lipid characteristics of the normal and the tumor mitochondria samples. Major abnormalities in the content of a complex lipid called were present in all types of tumors. Those results suggest that cardiolipin abnormalities can underlie irreversible respiratory injury in tumors and link mitochondrial lipid defects to the Warburg theory of cancer.
* Eurekalert January 12, 2009