Molecular pathways: trafficking of metabolic resources in the tumor microenvironment

Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Feb 15;21(4):680-6. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-2198.


A model of tumor metabolism is proposed that describes how the complementary metabolic functions of the local stroma and the tumor cells contribute to cancer progression. Cancer cells alter the metabolism of cancer-associated fibroblasts to obtain lactate and amino acids, which are utilized for energy production, rapid growth, and resistance to chemotherapy drugs. Cancer cells use glutamine supplied by cancer-associated fibroblasts to replenish tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates and as a nitrogen source for nucleotide synthesis. Moreover, adipocytes in the microenvironment attract cancer cells through the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and proteases. The cancer cells then induce metabolic changes in the adipocytes to acquire free fatty acids that are oxidized by cancer cells to generate energy for proliferation. Increasing knowledge about the metabolic symbiosis within the tumor has led to novel therapeutic strategies designed to restrict metabolic adaptation, including inhibiting lactate transporters and repurposing antidiabetic drugs (thiazolidinediones, metformin).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology*