Emerging evidence demonstrates that targeting energy metabolism is a promising strategy to fight cancer. Here we show that combining metformin and short-term starvation markedly impairs metabolism and growth of colon and breast cancer. The impairment in glycolytic flux caused by starvation is enhanced by metformin through its interference with hexokinase II activity, as documented by measurement of 18F-fluorodeoxyglycose uptake. Oxidative phosphorylation is additively compromised by combined treatment: metformin virtually abolishes Complex I function; starvation determines an uncoupled status of OXPHOS and amplifies the activity of respiratory Complexes II and IV thus combining a massive ATP depletion with a significant increase in reactive oxygen species. More importantly, the combined treatment profoundly impairs cancer glucose metabolism and virtually abolishes lesion growth in experimental models of breast and colon carcinoma. Our results strongly suggest that energy metabolism is a promising target to reduce cancer progression.
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