Mechanisms Governing Metabolic Heterogeneity in Breast Cancer and Other Tumors

Sayani Patra, Naveed Elahi, Aaron Armorer, Swathi Arunachalam, Joshua Omala, Iman Hamid, Anthony W. Ashton, David Joyce, Xuanmao Jiao, Richard G. Pestell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Reprogramming of metabolic priorities promotes tumor progression. Our understanding of the Warburg effect, based on studies of cultured cancer cells, has evolved to a more complex understanding of tumor metabolism within an ecosystem that provides and catabolizes diverse nutrients provided by the local tumor microenvironment. Recent studies have illustrated that heterogeneous metabolic changes occur at the level of tumor type, tumor subtype, within the tumor itself, and within the tumor microenvironment. Thus, altered metabolism occurs in cancer cells and in the tumor microenvironment (fibroblasts, immune cells and fat cells). Herein we describe how these growth advantages are obtained through either “convergent” genetic changes, in which common metabolic properties are induced as a final common pathway induced by diverse oncogene factors, or “divergent” genetic changes, in which distinct factors lead to subtype-selective phenotypes and thereby tumor heterogeneity. Metabolic heterogeneity allows subtyping of cancers and further metabolic heterogeneity occurs within the same tumor mass thought of as “microenvironmental metabolic nesting”. Furthermore, recent findings show that mutations of metabolic genes arise in the majority of tumors providing an opportunity for the development of more robust metabolic models of an individual patient’s tumor. The focus of this review is on the mechanisms governing this metabolic heterogeneity in breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number700629
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2021


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