Linking vitamin B1 with cancer cell metabolism

Cancer Metab. 2013 Jul 24;1(1):16. doi: 10.1186/2049-3002-1-16.


The resurgence of interest in cancer metabolism has linked alterations in the regulation and exploitation of metabolic pathways with an anabolic phenotype that increases biomass production for the replication of new daughter cells. To support the increase in the metabolic rate of cancer cells, a coordinated increase in the supply of nutrients, such as glucose and micronutrients functioning as enzyme cofactors is required. The majority of co-enzymes are water-soluble vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, riboflavin and thiamine (Vitamin B1). Continuous dietary intake of these micronutrients is essential for maintaining normal health. How cancer cells adaptively regulate cellular homeostasis of cofactors and how they can regulate expression and function of metabolic enzymes in cancer is underappreciated. Exploitation of cofactor-dependent metabolic pathways with the advent of anti-folates highlights the potential vulnerabilities and importance of vitamins in cancer biology. Vitamin supplementation products are easily accessible and patients often perceive them as safe and beneficial without full knowledge of their effects. Thus, understanding the significance of enzyme cofactors in cancer cell metabolism will provide for important dietary strategies and new molecular targets to reduce disease progression. Recent studies have demonstrated the significance of thiamine-dependent enzymes in cancer cell metabolism. Therefore, this review discusses the current knowledge in the alterations in thiamine availability, homeostasis, and exploitation of thiamine-dependent pathways by cancer cells.