Purpose of review: This review evaluates recent findings on the mechanisms by which lipogenic enzymes are upregulated or activated in cancer cells, the implications of increased lipogenesis for cancer cell biology and the feasibility of exploiting this pathway and its regulators as targets for antineoplastic intervention.
Recent findings: The list of cancer types showing increased lipogenic enzyme expression keeps growing and further evidence is accumulating that growth factor signaling and particularly activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/protein kinase B pathway plays a role in this process. This signaling pathway stimulates lipogenic gene transcription through activation of the lipogenic transcription factor sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1 and directly activates lipogenic enzymes such as ATP-citrate lyase, linking the upregulation of lipogenesis in cancer cells to the well known tumor-associated increase in glycolysis. Steroid hormones, overexpression of the ubiquitin-specific protease-2a and mutations in breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 may further enhance lipid synthesis. While fatty acid synthase is further established as a target for antineoplastic intervention, recent findings show that interference with acetyl-CoA carboxylase-alpha, ATP citrate lyase or the AMP-activated protein kinase limits cancer cell proliferation and survival.
Summary: The same disturbances in signaling pathways responsible for oncogenic transformation may also contribute to the increased lipogenesis observed in tumor cells. Increased lipogenesis involves modulation of multiple lipogenic enzymes at both transcriptional and posttranscriptional level and is linked to other cancer-associated metabolic changes. Not only fatty acid synthase, but in fact all key enzymes involved in fatty acid synthesis as well as key metabolic regulators are potential targets for antineoplastic intervention.