Manipulation of metabolic pathways and its consequences for anti-tumor immunity: A clinical perspective

Huang Yu Yang, Chao Yi Wu, Jonathan D. Powell, Kun Lin Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In the relatively short history of anti-tumor treatment, numerous medications have been developed against a variety of targets. Intriguingly, although many anti-tumor strategies have failed in their clinical trials, metformin, an anti-diabetic medication, demonstrated anti-tumor effects in observational studies and even showed its synergistic potential with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in subsequent clinical studies. Looking back from bedside-to-bench, it may not be surprising that the anti-tumor effect of metformin derives largely from its ability to rewire aberrant metabolic pathways within the tumor microenvironment. As one of the most promising breakthroughs in oncology, ICIs were also found to exert their immune-stimulatory effects at least partly via rewiring metabolic pathways. These findings underscore the importance of correcting metabolic pathways to achieve sufficient anti-tumor immunity. Herein, we start by introducing the tumor microenvironment, and then we review the implications of metabolic syndrome and treatments for targeting metabolic pathways in anti-tumor therapies. We further summarize the close associations of certain aberrant metabolic pathways with impaired anti-tumor immunity and introduce the therapeutic effects of targeting these routes. Lastly, we go through the metabolic effects of ICIs and conclude an overall direction to manipulate metabolic pathways in favor of anti-tumor responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4030
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Anti-tumor treatment
  • Cancer
  • Glutamine
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Immunometabolism
  • Metabolic pathway
  • Metformin
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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