The Warburg Effect: How Does it Benefit Cancer Cells?

Trends Biochem Sci. 2016 Mar;41(3):211-218. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2015.12.001. Epub 2016 Jan 5.


Cancer cells rewire their metabolism to promote growth, survival, proliferation, and long-term maintenance. The common feature of this altered metabolism is the increased glucose uptake and fermentation of glucose to lactate. This phenomenon is observed even in the presence of completely functioning mitochondria and, together, is known as the 'Warburg Effect'. The Warburg Effect has been documented for over 90 years and extensively studied over the past 10 years, with thousands of papers reporting to have established either its causes or its functions. Despite this intense interest, the function of the Warburg Effect remains unclear. Here, we analyze several proposed explanations for the function of Warburg Effect, emphasize their rationale, and discuss their controversies.

Keywords: ATP synthesis; ROS; Warburg Effect; chromatin remodeling; microenvironment acidification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • NAD / biosynthesis
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • NAD
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glucose