The pentose phosphate pathway: an antioxidant defense and a crossroad in tumor cell fate

Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Aug 1;53(3):421-36. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2012.05.006. Epub 2012 May 11.


The pentose phosphate pathway, one of the main antioxidant cellular defense systems, has been related for a long time almost exclusively to its role as a provider of reducing power and ribose phosphate to the cell. In addition to this "traditional" correlation, in the past years multiple roles have emerged for this metabolic cascade, involving the cell cycle, apoptosis, differentiation, motility, angiogenesis, and the response to anti-tumor therapy. These findings make the pentose phosphate pathway a very interesting target in tumor cells. This review summarizes the latest discoveries relating the activity of the pentose phosphate pathway to various aspects of tumor metabolism, such as cell proliferation and death, tissue invasion, angiogenesis, and resistance to therapy, and discusses the possibility that drugs modulating the pathway could be used as potential tools in tumor therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Embryonic Development
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pentose Phosphate Pathway*


  • Antioxidants