Dr. Otto Warburg

Dr. Otto Warburg (1883-1970) was a doctor of chemistry, a doctor of medicine and a physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1931. Over the course of his career 47 aspects of his work were nominated for a Nobel Prize.1

Otto investigated the process called ‘cell respiration’ and the metabolism of cancer cells (see below). He hypothesised that:

  • There are countless secondary reasons why a healthy cell turns into a cancer cell (e.g. (Ed.) poor diet, environmental pollution, microwave radiation) but there is only one prime cause: too little oxygen getting into the cell and its energy-generating organelles, the mitochondria from the bloodstream (hypoxia)

A healthy cell starts to become a cancer cell when, supplied insufficient oxygen, it and its energy-generating specialist units, the mitochondria, change the way they generate energy from …

    • a process inside the cell known as ‘ aerobic respiration’

(where a process called ‘glycolysis’ (the oxidative breakdown of glucose into pyruvate and adenosine triphosphate (ATP)) is followed (inside the mitochondria) by a process called ‘The Krebs cycle’ – the oxidative breakdown of the pyruvate
… into

    • a process known as ‘fermentation’ or ‘ anaerobic respiration’ (inside the cell and not forwarded to the mitochondria) where, instead, the breakdown of the glucose is anaerobic

Hence, according to Otto, cancer should be considered a mitochondrial dysfunction.2

  • If a healthy cell’s oxygen content reduces by around a third on an ongoing basis the process of becoming a cancer cell may start
  • The growth of cancer cells is impeded by (the presence of) oxygen, but stimulated by (the presence of) sugars

Otto did not live to see acceptance of his ideas by the orthodox medical authorities, but recent re-evaluations of the data and further work in the field more strongly support Otto’s original hypothesis than the current medical orthodoxy’s hypothesis that mutations in oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes are the cause of malignant cell transformation and cancer.3,4,5
Otto also thought he had discovered “the proof that the plasma-membrane plays an important role in the oxidative metabolism of the cell”, and “not (simply) because substances pass in or out through it”.6

When frustrated by the lack of acceptance of his ideas, Warburg was known to quote an aphorism he attributed to theoretical physicist Max Planck: “Science advances one funeral at a time”.7,8
Warburg is said to have often expressed dismay at the “continual discovery of cancer agents and cancer viruses” that, in his view, “merely hindered the development of necessary preventive measures … thereby becoming themselves the causes of additional cancer cases”.9

The Otto Warburg Medal

The Otto Warburg Medal is intended to commemorate Otto’s outstanding achievements. It has been awarded by the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie) since 1963. The prize honours and encourages pioneering achievements in fundamental biochemical and molecular biological research. The Otto Warburg Medal is regarded as the highest award in Germany for biochemists and molecular biologists.


1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto Heinrich_Warburg
2 Bertram, JS (December 2000). “The molecular biology of cancer”. Molecular aspects of medicine. 21 (6): 167–223 doi:10.1016/s0098-2997(00)00007-8. PMID 11173079
3 Seyfried, Thomas N.; Flores, Roberto E.; Poff, Angela M.; D’Agostino, Dominic P. (March 2014). “Cancer as a metabolic disease: implications for novel therapeutics”. Carcinogenesis. 35 (3): 515–527. 4 Warburg, O. (1956). “On the Origin of Cancer Cells”. Science. 123 (3191): 309–314. Bibcode:1956Sci… 123.. 309W. doi:10.1126/science.123.3191.309. PMID 13298683
5 The metabolism of tumours: Investigations from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology 1930 page 56 (out of print). Ref. Hoppe-Seylers Zeitschr. f. physiol Chem., 66, 305, 1910
6 Seyfried, Thomas T.N. (July 2015). “Cancer as a mitochondrial metabolic disease”. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. 3. PMC 4493566 – via PMC
8 van Wijk, Roeland (2014). Light in Shaping Life: Biophotons in Biology and Medicine. p. 86. ISBN 9081884328

(17630)  Nick Anderson. Green Health Watch 53 27.7.2019

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