Curbing Lipids: Impacts ON Cancer and Viral Infection

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Feb 2;20(3):644. doi: 10.3390/ijms20030644.


Lipids play a fundamental role in maintaining normal function in healthy cells. Their functions include signaling, storing energy, and acting as the central structural component of cell membranes. Alteration of lipid metabolism is a prominent feature of cancer, as cancer cells must modify their metabolism to fulfill the demands of their accelerated proliferation rate. This aberrant lipid metabolism can affect cellular processes such as cell growth, survival, and migration. Besides the gene mutations, environmental factors, and inheritance, several infectious pathogens are also linked with human cancers worldwide. Tumor viruses are top on the list of infectious pathogens to cause human cancers. These viruses insert their own DNA (or RNA) into that of the host cell and affect host cellular processes such as cell growth, survival, and migration. Several of these cancer-causing viruses are reported to be reprogramming host cell lipid metabolism. The reliance of cancer cells and viruses on lipid metabolism suggests enzymes that can be used as therapeutic targets to exploit the addiction of infected diseased cells on lipids and abrogate tumor growth. This review focuses on normal lipid metabolism, lipid metabolic pathways and their reprogramming in human cancers and viral infection linked cancers and the potential anticancer drugs that target specific lipid metabolic enzymes. Here, we discuss statins and fibrates as drugs to intervene in disordered lipid pathways in cancer cells. Further insight into the dysregulated pathways in lipid metabolism can help create more effective anticancer therapies.

Keywords: PPAR; cancer; cholesterol; fatty acids; fibrates; statins; viruses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / metabolism
  • Fibric Acids / adverse effects
  • Fibric Acids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • PPAR alpha / agonists
  • Signal Transduction
  • Virus Diseases / complications
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism*
  • Virus Diseases / virology


  • Biomarkers
  • Fibric Acids
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • PPAR alpha
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Cholesterol
  • Fatty Acid Synthases