The Warburg Effect

Most cancers show characteristic adaptations of cellular metabolism. Unlike normal cells, which rely on mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, cancer cells are using the much less efficient process of aerobic glycolysis for energy production. This phenomenon, called “Warburg Effect”, probably allows the cancer to balance the needs of simultaneously generating ATP and the precursor molecules for the synthetic processes required for malignant transformation and sustained aggressive growth. To compensate for the reduced flow of glucose carbon, the TCA cycle has to be replenished using other, alternative nutrients such as the amino acid glutamine. This process is referred to as anapleurosis.

Schematic view of tumor cell metabolism. Adapted from: Cantor and Sabatini, Cancer Discovery 2012;2:881.

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