Targeting glucose metabolism in patients with cancer

Cancer. 2014 Mar 15;120(6):774-80. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28501. Epub 2013 Dec 2.


Nearly a century ago, Otto Warburg made the astute observation that the metabolic properties of cancer cells differ markedly from those of normal cells. Several decades passed before the concept of exploiting cancer cell metabolism came into clinical practice with the advent of chemotherapy, the underlying principle of which is to target rapidly dividing cells by interfering with critical processes that are all, on some level, driven by cell metabolism. Although chemotherapy can be quite effective, success rates are highly variable and the adverse effects associated with treatment often outweigh the benefits due to the fact that chemotherapy is indiscriminately cytotoxic against all rapidly dividing cells, cancerous or healthy. During the past several years, a more intricate understanding of cancer cell metabolism has permitted the development of targeted therapies that aim to specifically target cancer cells and spare healthy tissue by exploiting the altered metabolism of cancer cells. The identification of new metabolic targets and the subsequent development of small-molecule inhibitors of metabolic enzymes have demonstrated the utility and promise of targeting cancer cell metabolism as an anticancer strategy. This review summarizes recent advances in the identification and characterization of several metabolic enzymes as emerging anticancer targets.

Keywords: anticancer targets; cancer metabolism; metabolic enzymes; small-molecule inhibitors; the Warburg effect.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Glucose