Targeting cancer metabolism: Dietary and pharmacologic interventions

Claudio Vernieri, Stefano Casola, Marco Foiani, Filippo Pietrantonio, Filippo de Braud, Valter Longo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Most tumors display oncogene-driven reprogramming of several metabolic pathways, which are crucial to sustain their growth and proliferation. In recent years, both dietary and pharmacologic approaches that target deregulated tumor metabolism are beginning to be considered for clinical applications. Dietary interventions exploit the ability of nutrient-restricted conditions to exert broad biological effects, protecting normal cells, organs, and systems, while sensitizing a wide variety of cancer cells to cytotoxic therapies. On the other hand, drugs targeting enzymes or metabolites of crucial metabolic pathways can be highly specific and effective, but must be matched with a responsive tumor, which might rapidly adapt. In this review, we illustrate how dietary and pharmacologic therapies differ in their effect on tumor growth, proliferation, and metabolism and discuss the available preclinical and clinical evidence in favor of or against each of them. We also indicate, when appropriate, how to optimize future investigations on metabolic therapies on the basis of tumor-and patient-related characteristics. Significance: To our knowledge, this is the first review article that comprehensively analyzes the preclinical and preliminary clinical experimental foundations of both dietary and pharmacologic metabolic interventions in cancer therapy. Among several promising therapies, we propose treatment personalization on the basis of tumor genetics, tumor metabolism, and patient systemic metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1333
Number of pages19
JournalCancer Discovery
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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