Metabolic reprogramming in tumors: Contributions of the tumor microenvironment

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48 Scopus citations


The genetic alterations associated with cell transformation are in large measure expressed in the metabolic phenotype as cancer cells proliferate and change their local environment, and prepare for metastasis. Qualitatively, the fundamental biochemistry of cancer cells is generally the same as in the untransformed cells, but the cancer cells produce a local environment, the TME, that is hostile to the stromal cells, and compete for nutrients. In order to proliferate, cells need sufficient nutrients, either those that cannot be made by the cells themselves, or must be made from simpler precursors. However, in solid tumors, the nutrient supply is often limiting given the potential for rapid proliferation, and the poor quality of the vasculature. Thus, cancer cells may employ a variety of strategies to obtain nutrients for survival, growth and metastasis. Although much has been learned using established cell lines in standard culture conditions, it is becoming clear from in vivo metabolic studies that this can also be misleading, and which nutrients are used for energy production versus building blocks for synthesis of macromolecules can vary greatly from tumor to tumor, and even within the same tumor. Here we review the operation of metabolic networks, and how recent understanding of nutrient supply in the TME and utilization are being revealed using stable isotope tracers in vivo as well as in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-198
Number of pages14
JournalGenes and Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Chongqing Medical University


  • Cancer metabolism
  • Metabolic flux
  • Nutrient supply
  • Stable isotope resolved metabolomics
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cell Biology


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