Polyamine metabolism and cancer: treatments, challenges and opportunities

Nat Rev Cancer. 2018 Nov;18(11):681-695. doi: 10.1038/s41568-018-0050-3.


Advances in our understanding of the metabolism and molecular functions of polyamines and their alterations in cancer have led to resurgence in the interest of targeting polyamine metabolism as an anticancer strategy. Increasing knowledge of the interplay between polyamine metabolism and other cancer-driving pathways, including the PTEN-PI3K-mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), WNT signalling and RAS pathways, suggests potential combination therapies that will have considerable clinical promise. Additionally, an expanding number of promising clinical trials with agents targeting polyamines for both therapy and prevention are ongoing. New insights into molecular mechanisms linking dysregulated polyamine catabolism and carcinogenesis suggest additional strategies that can be used for cancer prevention in at-risk individuals. In addition, polyamine blocking therapy, a strategy that combines the inhibition of polyamine biosynthesis with the simultaneous blockade of polyamine transport, can be more effective than therapies based on polyamine depletion alone and may involve an antitumour immune response. These findings open up new avenues of research into exploiting aberrant polyamine metabolism for anticancer therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Polyamines / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Polyamines