Targeting AMPK signaling in combating ovarian cancers: opportunities and challenges

Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai). 2016 Apr;48(4):301-17. doi: 10.1093/abbs/gmv128. Epub 2016 Jan 12.


The development and strategic application of effective anticancer therapies have turned out to be one of the most critical approaches of managing human cancers. Nevertheless, drug resistance is the major obstacle for clinical management of these diseases especially ovarian cancer. In the past years, substantial studies have been carried out with the aim of exploring alternative therapeutic approaches to enhance efficacy of current chemotherapeutic regimes and reduce the side effects caused in order to produce significant advantages in overall survival and to improve patients' quality of life. Targeting cancer cell metabolism by the application of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-activating agents is believed to be one of the most plausible attempts. AMPK activators such as 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide 1-β-d-ribofuranoside, A23187, metformin, and bitter melon extract not only prevent cancer progression and metastasis but can also be applied as a supplement to enhance the efficacy of cisplatin-based chemotherapy in human cancers such as ovarian cancer. However, because of the undesirable outcomes along with the frequent toxic side effects of most pharmaceutical AMPK activators that have been utilized in clinical trials, attentions of current studies have been aimed at the identification of replaceable reagents from nutraceuticals or traditional medicines. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms of many nutraceuticals in anticancer still remain obscure. Therefore, better understanding of the functional characterization and regulatory mechanism of natural AMPK activators would help pharmaceutical development in opening an area to intervene ovarian cancer and other human cancers.

Keywords: AMPK; cell metabolism; chemoresistance; nutraceuticals; ovarian cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Monophosphate / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Adenylate Kinase / metabolism*
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Enzyme Activators / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Pyrones / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Thiophenes / pharmacology


  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Enzyme Activators
  • Pyrones
  • Thiophenes
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Adenylate Kinase
  • 4-hydroxy-3-(4-(2-hydroxyphenyl)phenyl)-6-oxo-7H-thieno(2,3-b)pyridine-5-carbonitrile