The Warburg effect: molecular aspects and therapeutic possibilities

Mol Biol Rep. 2015 Apr;42(4):825-34. doi: 10.1007/s11033-014-3764-7.


It has been about nine decades since the proposal of Otto Warburg on the metabolism of cancer cells. Unlike normal cells which undergo glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation in the presence of oxygen, proliferating and cancer cells exhibit an increased uptake of glucose and increased rate of glycolysis and predominantly undergo lactic acid fermentation. Whether this phenomenon is the consequence of genetic dysregulation in cancer or is the cause of cancer still remains unknown. However, there is certainly a strong link between the genetic factors, epigenetic modulation, cancer immunosurveillance and the Warburg effect, which will be discussed in this review. Dichloroacetate and 3-bromopyruvate are among the substances that have been studied as potential cancer therapies. With our expanding knowledge of cellular metabolism, therapies targeting the Warburg effect appear very promising. This review discusses different aspects of these emerging therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dichloroacetic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Genes
  • Glycolysis*
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pyruvates / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Pyruvates
  • Lactic Acid
  • bromopyruvate
  • Dichloroacetic Acid