Escaping Death: Mitochondrial Redox Homeostasis in Cancer Cells

Front Oncol. 2017 Jun 9:7:117. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2017.00117. eCollection 2017.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are important signaling molecules that act through the oxidation of nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids. Several hallmarks of cancer, including uncontrolled proliferation, angiogenesis, and genomic instability, are promoted by the increased ROS levels commonly found in tumor cells. To counteract excessive ROS accumulation, oxidative stress, and death, cancer cells tightly regulate ROS levels by enhancing scavenging enzymes, which are dependent on the reducing cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). This review focuses on mitochondrial ROS homeostasis with a description of six pathways of NADPH production in mitochondria and a discussion of the possible strategies of pharmacological intervention to selectively eliminate cancer cells by increasing their ROS levels.

Keywords: apoptosis; cancer metabolism; mitochondria; nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate; reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review