Fumarate hydratase in cancer: A multifaceted tumour suppressor

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2020 Feb;98:15-25. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2019.05.002. Epub 2019 May 22.


Cancer is now considered a multifactorial disorder with different aetiologies and outcomes. Yet, all cancers share some common molecular features. Among these, the reprogramming of cellular metabolism has emerged as a key player in tumour initiation and progression. The finding that metabolic enzymes such as fumarate hydratase (FH), succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) and isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH), when mutated, cause cancer suggested that metabolic dysregulation is not only a consequence of oncogenic transformation but that it can act as cancer driver. However, the mechanisms underpinning the link between metabolic dysregulation and cancer remain only partially understood. In this review we discuss the role of FH loss in tumorigenesis, focusing on the role of fumarate as a key activator of a variety of oncogenic cascades. We also discuss how these alterations are integrated and converge towards common biological processes. This review highlights the complexity of the signals elicited by FH loss, describes that fumarate can act as a bona fide oncogenic event, and provides a compelling hypothesis of the stepwise neoplastic progression after FH loss.

Keywords: Cancer; FH; Fumarate; Metabolism; Mitochondria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Fumarate Hydratase / genetics
  • Fumarate Hydratase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Fumarate Hydratase