Tumour cell metabolism is very different from normal cell metabolism; cancer cells re-programme the metabolic pathways that occur in normal cells in such a manner that it optimizes their proliferation, growth and survival. Although this metabolic re-programming obviously operates to the advantage of the tumour, it also offers unique opportunities for effective cancer therapy. Molecules that target the tumour cell-specific metabolic pathways have potential as novel anti-cancer drugs. Lonidamine belongs to this group of molecules and is already in use in some countries for cancer treatment. It has been known for a long time that lonidamine interferes with energy production in tumour cells by inhibiting hexokinase II (HKII), a glycolytic enzyme. However, subsequent studies have uncovered additional pharmacological targets for the drug, which include the electron transport chain and the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, thus expanding the pharmacological effects of the drug on tumour cell metabolism. A study by Nancolas et al. in a recent issue of the Biochemical Journal identifies two additional new targets for lonidamine: the pyruvate transporter in the mitochondria and the H+-coupled monocarboxylate transporters in the plasma membrane (PM). It is thus becoming increasingly apparent that the anti-cancer effects of lonidamine do not occur through a single target; the drug works at multiple sites. Irrespective of the molecular targets, what lonidamine does in the end is to undo what the tumour cells have done in terms of re-programming cellular metabolism and mitochondrial function.

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