Metastases, which are the leading cause of death in patients with cancer, have metabolic vulnerabilities. Alterations in metabolism fuel the energy and biosynthetic needs of metastases but are also needed to activate cell state switches in cells leading to invasion, migration, colonization, and outgrowth in distant organs. Specifically, metabolites can activate protein kinases as well as receptors and they are crucial substrates for posttranslational modifications on histone and nonhistone proteins. Moreover, metabolic enzymes can have moonlighting functions by acting catalytically, mainly as protein kinases, or noncatalytically through protein–protein interactions. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on metabolic signaling in cancer metastasis.


Effective drugs for the prevention and treatment of metastases will have an immediate impact on patient survival. To overcome the current lack of such drugs, a better understanding of the molecular processes that are an Achilles heel in metastasizing cancer cells is needed. One emerging opportunity is the metabolic changes cancer cells need to undergo to successfully metastasize and grow in distant organs. Mechanistically, these metabolic changes not only fulfill energy and biomass demands, which are often in common between cancer and normal but fast proliferating cells, but also metabolic signaling which enables the cell state changes that are particularly important for the metastasizing cancer cells.

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