Iron metabolism: pathophysiology and pharmacology

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2021 Aug;42(8):640-656. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2021 Jun 2.


Iron is essential in many physiological processes, including DNA metabolism, oxygen transport, and cellular energy generation. Deregulated iron metabolism, which results in iron overload or iron deficiency, is observed in many different diseases. We here summarize recent progress in the pathophysiology and pharmacology of iron-overload diseases, such as hereditary hemochromatosis, as well as iron-deficiency disorders, which are typically associated with anemia. The role of iron in immunity and the connection between iron and cancer are also addressed. We finally summarize and discuss the current (pre-) clinical landscape of pharmacotherapies targeting key players involved in iron metabolism.

Keywords: anemia; cancer; hemochromatosis; inflammation; iron.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Hemochromatosis*
  • Humans
  • Iron
  • Iron Overload* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Iron