Therapeutic targeting of cancer cell metabolism
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- Dang, C.V., Hamaker, M., Sun, P. et al. J Mol Med (2011) 89: 205. doi:10.1007/s00109-011-0730-x
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In 1927, Otto Warburg and coworkers reported the increased uptake of glucose and production of lactate by tumors in vivo as compared with normal tissues. This phenomenon, now known as the Warburg effect, was recapitulated in vitro with cancer tissue slices exhibiting excessive lactate production even with adequate oxygen. Warburg's in vivo studies of tumors further suggest that the dependency of tumors in vivo on glucose could be exploited for therapy, because reduction of arterial glucose by half resulted in a four-fold reduction in tumor fermentation. Recent work in cancer metabolism indicates that the Warburg effect or aerobic glycolysis contributes to redox balance and lipid synthesis, but glycolysis is insufficient to sustain a growing and dividing cancer cell. In this regard, glutamine, which contributes its carbons to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, has been re-discovered as an essential bioenergetic and anabolic substrate for many cancer cell types. Could alterations in cancer metabolism be exploited for therapy? Here, we address this question by reviewing current concepts of normal metabolism and altered metabolism in cancer cells with specific emphasis on molecular targets involved directly in glycolysis or glutamine metabolism.