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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 1643-3750

Cancer: Mitochondrial Origins

George B. Stefano, Richard M. Kream

MitoGenetics, LLC, Farmingdale, NY, USA

Med Sci Monit 2015; 21:3736-3739

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.895990

Available online: 2015-12-01

Published: 2015-12-01


ABSTRACT: The primacy of glucose derived from photosynthesis as an existential source of chemical energy across plant and animal phyla is universally accepted as a core principle in the biological sciences. In mammalian cells, initial processing of glucose to triose phosphate intermediates takes place within the cytosolic glycolytic pathway and terminates with temporal transport of reducing equivalents derived from pyruvate metabolism by membrane-associated respiratory complexes in the mitochondrial matrix. The intra-mitochondrial availability of molecular oxygen as the ultimate electron acceptor drives the evolutionary fashioned chemiosmotic production of ATP as a high-efficiency biological process. The mechanistic bases of carcinogenesis have demonstrated profound alteration of normative mitochondrial function, notably dysregulated respiratory processes. Accordingly, the classic Warburg effect functionally links aerobic glycolysis, aberrant production and release of lactate, and metabolic down-regulation of mitochondrial oxidative processes with the carcinogenetic phenotype. We surmise, however, that aerobic fermentation by cancer cells may also represent a developmental re-emergence of an evolutionarily conserved early phenotype, which was “sidelined” with the emergence of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation as a primary mechanism for ATP production in normal cells. Regardless of state-dependent physiological status in mixed populations of cancer cells, it has been established that mitochondria are functionally linked to the initiation of cancer and its progression. Biochemical, molecular, and physiological differences in cancer cell mitochondria, notably mtDNA heteroplasmy and allele-specific expression of selected nuclear genes, may represent major focal points for novel targeting and elimination of cancer cells in metastatic disease afflicting human populations. To date, and despite considerable research efforts, the practical realization of advanced mitochondrial targeted therapies has not been forthcoming.

Keywords: DNA, Mitochondrial - metabolism, Adenosine Triphosphate - metabolism, Energy Metabolism, Glucose - metabolism, Glycolysis, Mitochondria - metabolism, Neoplasms - metabolism