Biomol Ther.  2018 Jan;26(1):29-38. 10.4062/biomolther.2017.179.

The Pentose Phosphate Pathway as a Potential Target for Cancer Therapy

  • 1Department of Oral Pathology, Oral Cancer Research Institute, Yonsei University College of Dentistry, Seoul 03722, Republic of Korea.
  • 2Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Yonsei University College of Dentistry, Seoul 03722, Republic of Korea.


During cancer progression, cancer cells are repeatedly exposed to metabolic stress conditions in a resource-limited environment which they must escape. Increasing evidence indicates the importance of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) homeostasis in the survival of cancer cells under metabolic stress conditions, such as metabolic resource limitation and therapeutic intervention. NADPH is essential for scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) mainly derived from oxidative phosphorylation required for ATP generation. Thus, metabolic reprogramming of NADPH homeostasis is an important step in cancer progression as well as in combinational therapeutic approaches. In mammalian, the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) and one-carbon metabolism are major sources of NADPH production. In this review, we focus on the importance of glucose flux control towards PPP regulated by oncogenic pathways and the potential therein for metabolic targeting as a cancer therapy. We also summarize the role of Snail (Snai1), an important regulator of the epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), in controlling glucose flux towards PPP and thus potentiating cancer cell survival under oxidative and metabolic stress.


Pentose phosphate pathway; NADPH; Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase; Snail; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition
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