Metabolic Remodeling Induced by Adipocytes: A New Achilles' Heel in Invasive Breast Cancer?

Curr Med Chem. 2020;27(24):3984-4001. doi: 10.2174/0929867325666180426165001.


Metabolic reprogramming represents an important hallmark of cancer cells. Besides de novo fatty acid synthesis, it is now clear that cancer cells can acquire Fatty Acids (FA) from tumor-surrounding adipocytes to increase their invasive capacities. Indeed, adipocytes release FA in response to tumor secreted factors that are transferred to tumor cells to be either stored as triglycerides and other complex lipids or oxidized in mitochondria. Like all cells, FA can be released over time from triglyceride stores through lipolysis and then oxidized in mitochondria in cancer cells. This metabolic interaction results in specific metabolic remodeling in cancer cells, and underpins adipocyte stimulated tumor progression. Lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation therefore represent novel targets of interest in the treatment of cancer. In this review, we summarize the recent advances in our understanding of the metabolic reprogramming induced by adipocytes, with a focus on breast cancer. Then, we recapitulate recent reports studying the effect of lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation inhibitors on tumor cells and discuss the interest to target these metabolic pathways as new therapeutic approaches for cancer.

Keywords: Breast cancer; adipocyte; fatty acid oxidation; lipolysis; metabolic remodeling; obesity; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes*
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipolysis*
  • Triglycerides


  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides