Metabolic reprogramming, carried out by cancer cells to rapidly adapt to stress such as hypoxia and limited nutrient conditions, is an emerging concepts in tumor biology, and is now recognized as one of the hallmarks of cancer. In contrast with conventional views, based on the classical Warburg effect, these metabolic alterations require fully functional mitochondria and finely-tuned regulations of their activity. In turn, the reciprocal regulation of the metabolic adaptations of cancer cells and the microenvironment critically influence disease progression and response to therapy. This is also realized through the function of specific stress-adaptive proteins, which are able to relieve oxidative stress, inhibit apoptosis, and facilitate the switch between metabolic pathways. Among these, the molecular chaperone tumor necrosis factor receptor associated protein 1 (TRAP1), the most abundant heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) family member in mitochondria, is particularly relevant because of its role as an oncogene or a tumor suppressor, depending on the metabolic features of the specific tumor. This review highlights the interplay between metabolic reprogramming and cancer progression, and the role of mitochondrial activity and oxidative stress in this setting, examining the possibility of targeting pathways of energy metabolism as a therapeutic strategy to overcome drug resistance, with particular emphasis on natural compounds and inhibitors of mitochondrial HSP90s.
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