Purpose: In this mini-review data are summarised which provide evidence for the biological and clinical significance of tumour glycolysis and of its relationship to the redox state of cancer cells.
Results: Malignant transformation is associated with an overexpression of numerous glycolysis-related genes in the vast majority of human cancers. At the same time, glycolytic activity and glycolysis-linked metabolic milieu are often variable between individual tumours which induces large variations in treatment response and aggressiveness. Currently, there is no genetic or proteomic marker for the prediction of the therapeutic response for individual tumours, but the prognostic value of tumour lactate accumulation for the emergence of metastasis, for patient survival and for radioresistance has been documented in a number of studies.
Conclusions: Transactivation of tumour glycolyis appears to generate a chemically reduced milieu associated with an inhibition of ROS (reactive oxygen species) -mediated fixation of DNA damage and induction of radioresistance. Furthermore, highly glycolytic cells enhance the antioxidant defense via glutathione, and pyruvate can be decarboxylated non-enzymatically upon reducing hydrogen peroxide. The summary of data given here emphasises the importance of further research efforts on the link between carbohydrate metabolism and redox state of cancer cells.