Hypoxia, lipids, and cancer: surviving the harsh tumor microenvironment

Trends Cell Biol. 2014 Aug;24(8):472-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2014.06.001. Epub 2014 Jul 4.


Solid tumors typically develop hostile microenvironments characterized by irregular vascularization and poor oxygen (O2) and nutrient supply. Whereas normal cells modulate anabolic and catabolic pathways in response to changes in nutrient availability, cancer cells exhibit unregulated growth even under nutrient scarcity. Recent studies have demonstrated that constitutive activation of growth-promoting pathways results in dependence on unsaturated fatty acids for survival under O2 deprivation. In cancer cells, this dependence represents a critical metabolic vulnerability that could be exploited therapeutically. Here we review how this dependence on unsaturated lipids is affected by the microenvironmental conditions faced by cancer cells.

Keywords: ER stress; SCD1; hypoxia; metabolism; unsaturated lipids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Diet
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress
  • Humans
  • Lipids / chemistry*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • Lipids