Tumour cells emerge as a result of genetic alteration of signal circuitries promoting cell growth and survival, whereas their expansion relies on nutrient supply. Oxygen limitation is central in controlling neovascularization, glucose metabolism, survival and tumour spread. This pleiotropic action is orchestrated by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), which is a master transcriptional factor in nutrient stress signalling. Understanding the role of HIF in intracellular pH (pH(i)) regulation, metabolism, cell invasion, autophagy and cell death is crucial for developing novel anticancer therapies. There are new approaches to enforce necrotic cell death and tumour regression by targeting tumour metabolism and pH(i)-control systems.