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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 May;4(5):638-54. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-10-0326.

Mitochondrial subversion in cancer.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Mitochondria control essential cellular activities including generation of ATP via oxidative phosphorylation. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations in the regulatory D-loop region and somatic mtDNA mutations are common in primary human cancers. The biological impact of a given mutation may vary, depending on the nature of the mutation and the proportion of mutant mtDNAs carried by the cell. Identification of mtDNA mutations in precancerous lesions supports their early contribution to cell transformation and cancer progression. Introduction of mtDNA mutations in transformed cells has been associated with increased ROS production and tumor growth. Studies reveal that increased and altered mtDNA plays a role in the development of cancer but further work is required to establish the functional significance of specific mitochondrial mutations in cancer and disease progression. This review offers some insight into the extent of mtDNA mutations, their functional consequences in tumorigenesis, mitochondrial therapeutics, and future clinical application.

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