Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) metabolism is redirected to glycolysis to enhance the production of metabolic compounds employed by cancer cells to produce proteins, lipids, and nucleotides in order to maintain a high proliferative rate. This mechanism drives towards uncontrolled growth and causes a further increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS), which could lead to cell death. HCC overcomes the problem generated by ROS increase by increasing the antioxidant machinery, in which key mechanisms involve glutathione, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), and hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF-1α). These mechanisms could represent optimal targets for innovative therapies. The tumor microenvironment (TME) exerts a key role in HCC pathogenesis and progression. Various metabolic machineries modulate the activity of immune cells in the TME. The deregulated metabolic activity of tumor cells could impair antitumor response. Lactic acid–lactate, derived from the anaerobic glycolytic rate of tumor cells, as well as adenosine, derived from the catabolism of ATP, have an immunosuppressive activity. Metabolic reprogramming of the TME via targeted therapies could enhance the treatment efficacy of anti-cancer immunotherapy. This review describes the metabolic pathways mainly involved in the HCC pathogenesis and progression. The potential targets for HCC treatment involved in these pathways are also discussed.
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