A Promising New Anti-Cancer Strategy: Iron Chelators Targeting CSCs

Acta Med Okayama. 2020 Feb;74(1):1-6. doi: 10.18926/AMO/57946.


Iron is a trace but vital element in the human body and is necessary for a multitude of crucial processes in life. However, iron overload is known to induce carcinogenesis via oxidative stress. Cancer cells require large amounts of iron for their rapid division and cell growth. Iron was recently found to play a role in cancer stem cells (CSCs); it maintains stemness during development. Iron also plays an important role in stemness by moderating reactive oxygen species. Thus, iron metabolism in CSCs is a promising therapeutic target. In this review, we summarize the roles of iron in cancer cells and CSCs. We also summarize anti-cancer therapeutic studies with iron chelators and describe our expectation of a new therapeutic strategy for CSCs on the basis of our findings.

Keywords: cancer stem cell; chelation; chemotherapy; iron; stemness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Iron Chelating Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Iron