Cancer cells alter metabolic processes to sustain their characteristic uncontrolled growth and proliferation. These metabolic alterations include (1) a shift from oxidative phosphorylation to aerobic glycolysis to support the increased need for ATP, (2) increased glutaminolysis for NADPH regeneration, (3) altered flux through the pentose phosphate pathway and the tricarboxylic acid cycle for macromolecule generation, (4) increased lipid uptake, lipogenesis, and cholesterol synthesis, (5) upregulation of one-carbon metabolism for the production of ATP, NADH/NADPH, nucleotides, and glutathione, (6) altered amino acid metabolism, (7) metabolism-based regulation of apoptosis, and (8) the utilization of alternative substrates, such as lactate and acetate. Altered metabolic flux in cancer is controlled by tumor-host cell interactions, key oncogenes, tumor suppressors, and other regulatory molecules, including non-coding RNAs. Changes to metabolic pathways in cancer are dynamic, exhibit plasticity, and are often dependent on the type of tumor and the tumor microenvironment, leading in a shift of thought from the Warburg Effect and the “reverse Warburg Effect” to metabolic plasticity. Understanding the complex nature of altered flux through these multiple pathways in cancer cells can support the development of new therapies.
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