The relationship between magnesium and cancer is not as simple as could be assumed from the well-established requirement of magnesium for cell proliferation. Basic and pre-clinical studies indicate that magnesium deficiency can have both anti- and pro-tumour effects. In the present review, we briefly outline the new findings on the role of magnesium in angiogenesis and metastatization, and focus on the relationship between tumour cell proliferation and metabolic reprogramming, discussing how magnesium and its transporters are involved in these processes. The role of magnesium in cancer is also critically examined with regard to mitochondrial function, apoptosis and resistance to treatment. Finally, we bring together the latest experimental evidence indicating that alteration in the expression and/or activity of magnesium channels is a frequent finding in cancer cells and human tumour tissues examined to date, and we discuss the potential implications for developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.
There is an unsettled debate about the role of magnesium as a ‘chronic regulator’ of biological functions, as opposed to the well-known role for calcium as an ‘acute regulator’. New and old findings appear to delineate an increasingly complex and important role for magnesium in many cellular functions. This review summarizes the available evidence for a link between the regulation of intracellular magnesium availability and the control of cell growth, energy metabolism and death, both in healthy and diseased conditions. A comprehensive view is precluded by technical difficulties in tracing magnesium within a multicompartment and dynamic environment like the cell; nevertheless, the last few years has witnessed encouraging progress towards a better characterization of magnesium transport and its storage or mobilization inside the cell. The latest findings pave the road towards a new and deeper appreciation of magnesium homoeostasis and its role in the regulation of essential cell functions.