Targeting Glycolysis Through Inhibition of Lactate Dehydrogenase Impairs Tumor Growth in Preclinical Models of Ewing Sarcoma

Cancer Res. 2019 Oct 1;79(19):5060-5073. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-0217. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Altered cellular metabolism, including an increased dependence on aerobic glycolysis, is a hallmark of cancer. Despite the fact that this observation was first made nearly a century ago, effective therapeutic targeting of glycolysis in cancer has remained elusive. One potentially promising approach involves targeting the glycolytic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), which is overexpressed and plays a critical role in several cancers. Here, we used a novel class of LDH inhibitors to demonstrate, for the first time, that Ewing sarcoma cells are exquisitely sensitive to inhibition of LDH. EWS-FLI1, the oncogenic driver of Ewing sarcoma, regulated LDH A (LDHA) expression. Genetic depletion of LDHA inhibited proliferation of Ewing sarcoma cells and induced apoptosis, phenocopying pharmacologic inhibition of LDH. LDH inhibitors affected Ewing sarcoma cell viability both in vitro and in vivo by reducing glycolysis. Intravenous administration of LDH inhibitors resulted in the greatest intratumoral drug accumulation, inducing tumor cell death and reducing tumor growth. The major dose-limiting toxicity observed was hemolysis, indicating that a narrow therapeutic window exists for these compounds. Taken together, these data suggest that targeting glycolysis through inhibition of LDH should be further investigated as a potential therapeutic approach for cancers such as Ewing sarcoma that exhibit oncogene-dependent expression of LDH and increased glycolysis. SIGNIFICANCE: LDHA is a pharmacologically tractable EWS-FLI1 transcriptional target that regulates the glycolytic dependence of Ewing sarcoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Glycolysis / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Sarcoma, Ewing / metabolism
  • Sarcoma, Ewing / pathology*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase