Facilitative glucose transporters: Implications for cancer detection, prognosis and treatment

Metabolism. 2016 Feb;65(2):124-39. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2015.10.007. Epub 2015 Nov 13.


It is long recognized that cancer cells display increased glucose uptake and metabolism. In a rate-limiting step for glucose metabolism, the glucose transporter (GLUT) proteins facilitate glucose uptake across the plasma membrane. Fourteen members of the GLUT protein family have been identified in humans. This review describes the major characteristics of each member of the GLUT family and highlights evidence of abnormal expression in tumors and cancer cells. The regulation of GLUTs by key proliferation and pro-survival pathways including the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt, hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), Ras, c-Myc and p53 pathways is discussed. The clinical utility of GLUT expression in cancer has been recognized and evidence regarding the use of GLUTs as prognostic or predictive biomarkers is presented. GLUTs represent attractive targets for cancer therapy and this review summarizes recent studies in which GLUT1, GLUT3, GLUT5 and others are inhibited to decrease cancer growth.

Keywords: Cancer metabolism; GLUT; Glucose transporter; SLC2; Warburg effect.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / classification
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Prognosis


  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18