Oncometabolites in cancer aggressiveness and tumour repopulation

Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2019 Aug;94(4):1530-1546. doi: 10.1111/brv.12513. Epub 2019 Apr 10.


Tumour repopulation is recognized as a crucial event in tumour relapse where therapy-sensitive dying cancer cells influence the tumour microenvironment to sustain therapy-resistant cancer cell growth. Recent studies highlight the role of the oncometabolites succinate, fumarate, and 2-hydroxyglutarate in the aggressiveness of cancer cells and in the worsening of the patient's clinical outcome. These oncometabolites can be produced and secreted by cancer and/or surrounding cells, modifying the tumour microenvironment and sustaining an invasive neoplastic phenotype. In this review, we report recent findings concerning the role in cancer development of succinate, fumarate, and 2-hydroxyglutarate and the regulation of their related enzymes succinate dehydrogenase, fumarate hydratase, and isocitrate dehydrogenase. We propose that oncometabolites are crucially involved in tumour repopulation. The study of the mechanisms underlying the relationship between oncometabolites and tumour repopulation is fundamental for identifying efficient anti-cancer therapeutic strategies and novel serum biomarkers in order to overcome cancer relapse.

Keywords: 2-hydroxyglutarate; cancer; fumarate; metabolism; oncometabolites; succinate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fumarate Hydratase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Recurrence
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase
  • Fumarate Hydratase