Metabolic Reprogramming and Epithelial-Mesenchymal Plasticity: Opportunities and Challenges for Cancer Therapy

Nai Yun Sun, Muh Hwa Yang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Metabolic reprogramming and epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity are both hallmarks of the adaptation of cancer cells for tumor growth and progression. For metabolic changes, cancer cells alter metabolism by utilizing glucose, lipids, and amino acids to meet the requirement of rapid proliferation and to endure stressful environments. Dynamic changes between the epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes through epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) are critical steps for cancer invasion and metastatic colonization. Compared to the extensively studied metabolic reprogramming in tumorigenesis, the metabolic changes in metastasis are relatively unclear. Here, we review metabolic reprogramming, epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity, and their mutual influences on tumor cells. We also review the developing treatments for targeting cancer metabolism and the impact of metabolic targeting on EMT. In summary, understanding the metabolic adaption and phenotypic plasticity will be mandatory for developing new strategies to target metastatic and refractory cancers that are intractable to current treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number792
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - 20 May 2020


  • aerobic glycolysis
  • cancer metabolism
  • drug resistance
  • epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity
  • metastasis


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