A Potential "Anti-Warburg Effect" in Circulating Tumor Cell-mediated Metastatic Progression?

Aging Dis. 2024 Jan 11. doi: 10.14336/AD.2023.1227. Online ahead of print.


Metabolic reprogramming is a defining hallmark of cancer metastasis, warranting thorough exploration. The tumor-promoting function of the "Warburg Effect", marked by escalated glycolysis and restrained mitochondrial activity, is widely acknowledged. Yet, the functional significance of mitochondria-mediated oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) during metastasis remains controversial. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are considered metastatic precursors that detach from primary or secondary sites and harbor the potential to seed distant metastases through hematogenous dissemination. A comprehensive metabolic characterization of CTCs faces formidable obstacles, including the isolation of these rare cells from billions of blood cells, coupled with the complexities of ex vivo-culturing of CTC lines or the establishment of CTC-derived xenograft models (CDX). This review summarized the role of the "Warburg Effect" in both tumorigenesis and CTC-mediated metastasis. Intriguingly, bioinformatic analysis of single-CTC transcriptomic studies unveils a potential OXPHOS dominance over Glycolysis signature genes across several important cancer types. From these observations, we postulate a potential "Anti-Warburg Effect" (AWE) in CTCs-a metabolic shift bridging primary tumors and metastases. The observed AWE could be clinically important as they are significantly correlated with therapeutic response in melanoma and prostate patients. Thus, unraveling dynamic metabolic regulations within CTC populations might reveal an additional layer of regulatory complexities of cancer metastasis, providing an avenue for innovative anti-metastasis therapies.

Publication types

  • Review