From tumor cell metabolism to tumor immune escape

Martin Villalba, Moeez G. Rathore, Nuria Lopez-Royuela, Ewelina Krzywinska, Johan Garaude, Nerea Allende-Vega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Tumorigenesis implies adaptation of tumor cells to an adverse environment. First, developing tumors must acquire nutrients to ensure their rapid growth. Second, they must escape the attack from the host immune system. Recent studies suggest that these phenomena could be related and that tumor cell metabolism may propel tumor immune escape. Tumor cell metabolism tends to avoid mitochondrial activity and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), and largely relies on glycolysis to produce energy. This specific metabolism helps tumor cells to avoid the immune attack from the host by blocking or avoiding the immune attack. By changing their metabolism, tumor cells produce or sequester a variety of amino acids, lipids and chemical compounds that directly alter immune function therefore promoting immune evasion. A second group of metabolism-related modification targets the major histocompatibility complex-I (MHC-I) and related molecules. Tumor MHC-I presents tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) to cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs) and hence, sensitizes cancer cells to the cytolytic actions of the anti-tumor adaptive immune response. Blocking tumor mitochondrial activity decreases expression of MHC-I molecules at the tumor cell surface. And peroxynitrite (PNT), produced by tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells, chemically modifies MHC-I avoiding TAA expression in the plasma membrane. These evidences on the role of tumor cell metabolism on tumor immune escape open the possibility of combining drugs designed to control tumor cell metabolism with new procedures of anti-tumor immunotherapy. This article is part of a Directed Issue entitled: Bioenergetic dysfunction, adaptation and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the program “Chercheur d’avenir” from the Region Languedoc-Rousillon (MV), a scientific program from the “Communauté de Travail des Pyrénées” (CTPP10/09 to MV), the Association pour la Recherche contre le Cancer (MV), the Fondation pour la Recherche Medicale (MV), a grant FEDER Objectif competitivite (MV), a grant from European Community Program SUDOE (MV) and a fellowships from the ARC and Higher Education Commission, Pakistan (MGR), and Ligue contre le cancer (NLR).


  • Cancer immunoediting
  • Cancer immunosurveillance
  • MHC-I
  • Warburg effect


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