Pro- and antitumor effects of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2019 Jun;38(1-2):189-203. doi: 10.1007/s10555-019-09789-2.


In cancer, mitochondrial functions are commonly altered. Directly involved in metabolic reprogramming, mitochondrial plasticity confers to cancer cells a high degree of adaptability to a wide range of stresses and to the harsh tumor microenvironment. Lack of nutrients or oxygen caused by altered perfusion, metabolic needs of proliferating cells, co-option of the microenvironment, control of the immune system, cell migration and metastasis, and evasion of exogenous stress (e.g., chemotherapy) are all, at least in part, influenced by mitochondria. Mitochondria are undoubtedly one of the key contributors to cancer development and progression. Understanding their protumoral (dys)functions may pave the way to therapeutic strategies capable of turning them into innocent entities. Here, we will focus on the production and detoxification of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS), on their impact on tumorigenesis (genetic, prosurvival, and microenvironmental effects and their involvement in autophagy), and on tumor metastasis. We will also summarize the latest therapeutic approaches involving mtROS.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Cancer; Mitochondria; Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS); Pro-oxidants; mitoQ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species