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Future Med Chem. 2013 Jan;5(1):53-67. doi: 10.4155/fmc.12.190.

Targeting cancer cell mitochondria as a therapeutic approach.

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State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.


Mitochondria are double membrane-enveloped organelles that play a central role in cellular metabolism, calcium homeostasis, redox signaling and cell fates. They function as main generators of ATP, metabolites for the construction of macromolecules and reactive oxygen species. In many cancer cells, mitochondria seem dysfunctional, manifested by a shift of energy metabolism from oxidative phosphorylation to active glycolysis and an increase in reactive oxygen species generation. These metabolic changes are often associated with upregulation of NAD(P)H oxidase. Importantly, the metabolic reprogramming in a cancer cell is mechanistically linked to oncogenic signals. Targeting mitochondria as a cancer therapeutic strategy has attracted much attention in the recent years and multiple review articles in this area have been published. This article attempts to provide an update on recent progress in identification of mitochondria-associated molecules as potential anticancer targets and the respective targeting compounds.

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