Decoding key nodes in the metabolism of cancer cells: sugar & spice and all things nice

F1000 Biol Rep. 2012;4:2. doi: 10.3410/B4-2. Epub 2012 Jan 3.


In the past 5 years, a convergence of studies has resulted in a broad appreciation in the cancer research community that reprogramming of cellular metabolism may be more central to cancer than appreciated in the past 30 years. The re-emergence of cancer metabolism stems in part from discoveries that a number of common oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes more directly control cell metabolism than previously thought. In addition, a number of what would previously have been called "card-carrying" metabolic enzymes have been identified as human tumor suppressors or oncogenes, causally mutated in a variety of human cancers. This growing appreciation of the role of altered cell metabolism has led to further investigation into the rate-limiting proteins involved in different aspects of the unique metabolism of tumor cells. Targeting cancer metabolism with drugs requires a therapeutic window in which tumor cells, compared to normal tissues, have a greater dependence on specific metabolic enzymes. Themes that have emerged in the past decade of developing oncogene-targeted cancer therapeutics suggest that tumors with distinct oncogenic lesions are likely to require drugs that target distinct metabolic pathways. Ultimately, the hope is that detailed knowledge of oncogene and tumor suppressor gene functions and their effects on metabolism will lead to drug combinations that will be far more effective in treating cancers.