The term ‘lipids’ refers to a class of biological molecules primarily composed of hydrocarbons such as fatty acids, glycerolipids, sphingolipids and sterol lipids. Lipids take part in a variety of physiological functions and have specific roles depending on their chemical structure and localisation within or outside cells. For example, glycerolipids (e.g. triglycerides) are often used as energy stores, sterol lipids (e.g. cholesterol) and glycerophospholipids as structural components of cell membranes (e.g. the lipid bilayer), and sphingolipids as part of a signalling cascade. Since lipids are a source of energy and basic building block of all living cells, it is not surprising that development of cancer (i.e. uncontrolled proliferation of cells) is closely tied to the metabolism of lipids. This notion is supported by studies into the reprogrammed metabolic machinery in cancer cells, and also cell and animal model experiments showing that cancer growth and metastasis can be induced or inhibited by the exogenous addition of lipids. Here, we review how cancer cells can alter their lipid metabolism to meet their metabolic requirements, and the potential tumorigenic and tumour-suppressive mechanisms in which lipids are involved.
Part of the book: Advances in Lipid Metabolism