A key characteristic of cancer cells is the ability to switch from a predominantly oxidative metabolism to glycolysis and the production of lactate even when oxygen is plentiful. This metabolic switch, known as the Warburg effect, was first described in the 1920s, and has fascinated and puzzled researchers ever since. However, a dramatic increase in glycolysis in the presence of oxygen is one of the hallmarks of the development of the early mammalian embryo; a metabolic switch with many parallels to the Warburg effect of cancers. The present review provides a brief overview of this and other similarities between the metabolism in tumours and early embryos and proposes whether knowledge of early embryo metabolism can help us to understand metabolic regulation in cancer cells.

You do not currently have access to this content.