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Iron Deprivation in Cancer––Potential Therapeutic Implications

Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA
Department of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2013, 5(8), 2836-2859;
Received: 4 June 2013 / Revised: 12 July 2013 / Accepted: 16 July 2013 / Published: 24 July 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dietary Iron and Human Health)
PDF [683 KB, uploaded 24 July 2013]


Iron is essential for normal cellular function. It participates in a wide variety of cellular processes, including cellular respiration, DNA synthesis, and macromolecule biosynthesis. Iron is required for cell growth and proliferation, and changes in intracellular iron availability can have significant effects on cell cycle regulation, cellular metabolism, and cell division. Perhaps not surprisingly then, neoplastic cells have been found to have higher iron requirements than normal, non-malignant cells. Iron depletion through chelation has been explored as a possible therapeutic intervention in a variety of cancers. Here, we will review iron homeostasis in non-malignant and malignant cells, the widespread effects of iron depletion on the cell, the various iron chelators that have been explored in the treatment of cancer, and the tumor types that have been most commonly studied in the context of iron chelation. View Full-Text
Keywords: iron; chelation; cancer; leukemia; neuroblastoma; ribonucleotide reductase iron; chelation; cancer; leukemia; neuroblastoma; ribonucleotide reductase

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Heath, J.L.; Weiss, J.M.; Lavau, C.P.; Wechsler, D.S. Iron Deprivation in Cancer––Potential Therapeutic Implications. Nutrients 2013, 5, 2836-2859.

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