Cancer cell metabolism
Puzio-Kuter, Anna M. Department of Pediatrics, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Last reviewed:March 2019
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- Warburg effect
- Metabolic changes in cancer: oncogenes, tumor suppressors, and the tumor microenvironment
- Diagnostic procedures and therapeutic perspectives
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The sum of the physical and chemical processes by which cancerous cells are produced and maintained, and by which energy is made available for their use. A cancer cell and a normal cell differ in several ways. One important and distinguishing difference is seen in their metabolism. Cancer cells have an altered metabolism in comparison to normal cells that supports the survival of cancer cells and their proliferation (Fig. 1). Specifically, they rely on a less efficient pathway, called aerobic glycolysis [the enzymatic breakdown of glucose, with the formation of lactate or pyruvate and the release of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)], to produce energy instead of a more efficient pathway, called oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). At first, this might seem counterintuitive, given that cancer cells are fast growing and therefore should require more energy than normal cells. However, the basis for the alteration stems from three basic needs of a cancer cell: (1) energy production via rapid ATP generation, (2) increased biosynthesis of macromolecules, and (3) maintenance of cellular redox status [adequate cellular levels of reducing agents, such as glutathione or the reduced form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH), to inactivate damaging free radicals]. See also: Adenosine triphosphate (ATP); Biological oxidation; Cancer; Carbohydrate metabolism; Cell (biology); Cell biology; Energy metabolism; Glucose; Metabolism; Oncology
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