Numerous studies have shown that supraphysiological activation of AMPK could inhibit tumor growth. On the other hand, accumulating data also suggest that AMPK activity is required for tumor growth and migration. These findings suggest that physiological activation of AMPK is critical for tumor growth/migration, possibly through maintenance of ATP levels. Our recent study provides the first evidence that the maintenance of cellular NADPH homeostasis is the predominant mechanism by which AMPK promotes tumor cell survival and solid tumor formation. We showed that AMPK activation is required to maintain intracellular NADPH levels through the activation of fatty acid oxidation (FAO) or the inhibition of fatty acid synthesis (FAS) during glucose deprivation or matrix detachment respectively. Through these processes AMPK activation inhibits the rise in reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and promotes metabolic adaptation in response to metabolic stress. This finding also provides a new therapeutic opportunity through targeting metabolic adaptation of cancer cells, either alone or in combination with conventional anti-cancer drugs that cause metabolic stress.
Keywords: ACC; AMPK; CaMKK2; LKB1; NADPH; ROS; cancer; fatty acids; metabolic stress.