Metabolic rivalry: circadian homeostasis and tumorigenesis

Nat Rev Cancer. 2020 Sep 7. doi: 10.1038/s41568-020-0291-9. Online ahead of print.


Circadian rhythms govern a large array of physiological and metabolic functions. Perturbations of the daily cycle have been linked to elevated risk of developing cancer as well as poor prognosis in patients with cancer. Also, expression of core clock genes or proteins is remarkably attenuated particularly in tumours of a higher stage or that are more aggressive, possibly linking the circadian clock to cellular differentiation. Emerging evidence indicates that metabolic control by the circadian clock underpins specific hallmarks of cancer metabolism. Indeed, to support cell proliferation and biomass production, the clock may direct metabolic processes of cancer cells in concert with non-clock transcription factors to control how nutrients and metabolites are utilized in a time-specific manner. We hypothesize that the metabolic switch between differentiation or stemness of cancer may be coupled to the molecular clockwork. Moreover, circadian rhythms of host organisms appear to dictate tumour growth and proliferation. This Review outlines recent discoveries of the interplay between circadian rhythms, proliferative metabolism and cancer, highlighting potential opportunities in the development of future therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

  • Review