1 Molecular and Cell Biology, and The Centre for Molecular Therapeutics, Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, Townsville, James Cook University, QLD 4811, Australia.
2 Storr Liver Centre, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Westmead Hospital and University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of few cancer types that continues to grow in incidence and mortality worldwide. With the alarming increase in diabetes and obesity rates, the higher rates of hepatocellular carcinoma are a result of underlying non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Many have attributed disease progression to an excess consumption of fructose sugar. Fructose has known toxic effects on the liver, including increased fatty acid production, increased oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. These effects have been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) disease and a progression to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). While the literature suggests fructose may enhance liver cancer progression, the precise mechanisms in which fructose induces tumor formation remains largely unclear. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of fructose metabolism in liver disease and liver tumor development. Furthermore, we consider the latest knowledge of cancer cell metabolism and speculate on additional mechanisms of fructose metabolism in hepatocellular carcinoma.