Iron Metabolism in Cancer

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Dec 27;20(1):95. doi: 10.3390/ijms20010095.


Demanded as an essential trace element that supports cell growth and basic functions, iron can be harmful and cancerogenic though. By exchanging between its different oxidized forms, iron overload induces free radical formation, lipid peroxidation, DNA, and protein damages, leading to carcinogenesis or ferroptosis. Iron also plays profound roles in modulating tumor microenvironment and metastasis, maintaining genomic stability and controlling epigenetics. in order to meet the high requirement of iron, neoplastic cells have remodeled iron metabolism pathways, including acquisition, storage, and efflux, which makes manipulating iron homeostasis a considerable approach for cancer therapy. Several iron chelators and iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) has recently been developed for cancer intervention and presented considerable effects. This review summarizes some latest findings about iron metabolism function and regulation mechanism in cancer and the application of iron chelators and IONPs in cancer diagnosis and therapy.

Keywords: cancer; epigenetic regulation; iron homeostasis; iron manipulating strategies; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epigenomics
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Iron