Non-glucose metabolism in cancer cells--is it all in the fat?

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2012 Dec;31(3-4):689-98. doi: 10.1007/s10555-012-9384-6.


Cancer biologists seem to have overlooked tumor metabolism in their research endeavors over the last 80 years of the last century, only to have "rediscovered Warburg" (Warburg et al. 1930; Warburg, Science 123(3191):309-314, 1956) within the first decade of the twenty-first century, as well as to suggest the importance of other, non-glucose-dependent, metabolic pathways such as such as fatty acid de novo synthesis and catabolism (β-oxidation) (Mashima et al., Br J Cancer 100:1369-1372, 2009) and glutamine catabolism (glutaminolysis) (DeBerardinis et al., Proc Nat Acad Sci 104(49):19345-19350, 2007). These non-glucose metabolic pathways seem to be just as important as the Warburg effect, if not potentially more so in human cancer. The purpose of this review is to highlight the importance of fatty acid metabolism in cancer cells and, where necessary, identify gaps in current knowledge and postulate hypothesis based upon findings in the cellular physiology of metabolic diseases and normal cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Fatty Acids
  • Adenosine Triphosphate