How Lung Cancer Hijacks Immune Cell Metabolism to Fuel Its Own Growth

How Lung Cancer Hijacks Immune Cell Metabolism to Fuel Its Own Growth

Lung cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is known for its ability to rapidly grow and spread throughout the body. Recent research has shed light on how lung cancer hijacks immune cell metabolism to fuel its own growth, providing valuable insights for potential treatment strategies.

Understanding Immune Cell Metabolism

Immune cells play a crucial role in the body’s defense against cancer. They are responsible for identifying and eliminating abnormal cells, including cancer cells. However, cancer cells have developed sophisticated mechanisms to evade the immune system’s surveillance and attack.

One such mechanism involves the manipulation of immune cell metabolism. Metabolism refers to the chemical processes that occur within cells to generate energy and essential molecules for growth and survival. Cancer cells exploit this process to their advantage.

The Warburg Effect

A well-known phenomenon in cancer biology is the Warburg effect. It describes the preference of cancer cells to rely on glycolysis, a less efficient form of energy production, even in the presence of oxygen. This metabolic switch allows cancer cells to rapidly generate energy and biomass required for their uncontrolled growth.

Interestingly, recent studies have shown that lung cancer cells can induce a similar metabolic shift in immune cells. By altering the metabolic pathways of immune cells, lung cancer creates an environment that supports its own growth and survival.

Manipulating Immune Cell Metabolism

Lung cancer cells release various signaling molecules and metabolites that influence the metabolism of nearby immune cells. These alterations can lead to immune cell dysfunction and impaired anti-tumor responses.

For example, lung cancer cells can promote the production of lactate by immune cells through the activation of certain enzymes. Lactate, a byproduct of glycolysis, not only serves as an energy source for cancer cells but also suppresses the activity of immune cells, impairing their ability to attack the tumor.

Potential Treatment Strategies

Understanding how lung cancer hijacks immune cell metabolism opens up new avenues for therapeutic interventions. Researchers are exploring various strategies to target the metabolic vulnerabilities of cancer cells and restore immune cell function.

One approach involves the use of drugs that inhibit specific metabolic enzymes or signaling pathways involved in the metabolic reprogramming of immune cells. By blocking these pathways, it may be possible to restore the anti-tumor activity of immune cells and enhance the effectiveness of existing immunotherapies.


Lung cancer’s ability to hijack immune cell metabolism is a fascinating area of research that provides valuable insights into the complex interactions between cancer cells and the immune system. By understanding these mechanisms, scientists and clinicians can develop innovative treatment strategies to combat this deadly disease.