Cancer Metabolism under Limiting Oxygen Conditions

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2024 Feb 1;14(2):a041542. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a041542.


Molecular oxygen (O2) is essential for cellular bioenergetics and numerous biochemical reactions necessary for life. Solid tumors outgrow the native blood supply and diffusion limits of O2, and therefore must engage hypoxia response pathways that evolved to withstand acute periods of low O2 Hypoxia activates coordinated gene expression programs, primarily through hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs), to support survival. Many of these changes involve metabolic rewiring such as increasing glycolysis to support ATP generation while suppressing mitochondrial metabolism. Since low O2 is often coupled with nutrient stress in the tumor microenvironment, other responses to hypoxia include activation of nutrient uptake pathways, metabolite scavenging, and regulation of stress and growth signaling cascades. Continued development of models that better recapitulate tumors and their microenvironments will lead to greater understanding of oxygen-dependent metabolic reprogramming and lead to more effective cancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Oxygen