Adipose tissue dysfunction and its effects on tumor metabolism

Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2015 Jan;21(1):17-41. doi: 10.1515/hmbci-2014-0045.


Growing by an alarming rate in the Western world, obesity has become a condition associated with a multitude of diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and various cancers. Generally viewed as an abnormal accumulation of hypertrophied adipocytes, obesity is also a poor prognostic factor for recurrence and chemoresistance in cancer patients. With more than two-thirds of the adult population in the United States considered clinically overweight or obese, it is critical that the relationship between obesity and cancer is further emphasized and elucidated. Adipocytes are highly metabolically active cells, which, through release of adipokines and cytokines and activation of endocrine and paracrine pathways, affect processes in neighboring and distant cells, altering their normal homeostasis. This work will examine specifically how adipocyte-derived factors regulate the cellular metabolism of malignant cells within the tumor niche. Briefly, tumor cells undergo metabolic pressure towards a more glycolytic and hypoxic state through a variety of metabolic regulators and signaling pathways, i.e., phosphoinositol-3 kinase (PI3K), hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α), and c-MYC signaling. Enhanced glycolysis and high lactate production are hallmarks of tumor progression largely because of a process known as the Warburg effect. Herein, we review the latest literature pertaining to the body of work on the interactions between adipose and tumor cells, and underlining the changes in cancer cell metabolism that have been targeted by the currently available treatments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipolysis
  • Nanoparticles / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit