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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Targeting energy metabolism in brain cancer: review and hypothesis

Thomas N Seyfried* and Purna Mukherjee

Author Affiliations

Biology Department, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2005, 2:30  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-30

Published: 21 October 2005

Abstract

Malignant brain tumors are a significant health problem in children and adults and are often unmanageable. As a metabolic disorder involving the dysregulation of glycolysis and respiration, malignant brain cancer is potentially manageable through changes in metabolic environment. A radically different approach to brain cancer management is proposed that combines metabolic control analysis with the evolutionarily conserved capacity of normal cells to survive extreme shifts in physiological environment. In contrast to malignant brain tumors that are largely dependent on glycolysis for energy, normal neurons and glia readily transition to ketone bodies (β-hydroxybutyrate) for energy in vivo when glucose levels are reduced. The bioenergetic transition from glucose to ketone bodies metabolically targets brain tumors through integrated anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic, and pro-apoptotic mechanisms. The approach focuses more on the genomic flexibility of normal cells than on the genomic defects of tumor cells and is supported from recent studies in orthotopic mouse brain tumor models and in human pediatric astrocytoma treated with dietary energy restriction and the ketogenic diet.

Keywords:
glioma; vascularity; caloric restriction; ketone bodies; metabolic control analysis; angiogenesis; apoptosis; inflammation; Warburg