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We need to talk about the Warburg effect

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of Otto Warburg’s first description of the metabolic phenotype bearing his name—a propensity for tumours to metabolize glucose anaerobically rather than aerobically, even when oxygen is available. Generations of scientists have studied the Warburg effect, yet misconceptions persist about its causes and relationship to oxidative metabolism in the mitochondria. Here, we review the definition of the Warburg effect and discuss its place within a modern understanding of cancer biology.

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Fig. 1: Glycolysis and TCA-cycle metabolism supply anabolic pathways.


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Correspondence to Ralph J. DeBerardinis or Navdeep S. Chandel.

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Competing interests

R.J.D. is an advisor for Agios Pharmaceuticals. N.S.C. is an advisor for Rafael Pharmaceuticals.

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DeBerardinis, R.J., Chandel, N.S. We need to talk about the Warburg effect. Nat Metab 2, 127–129 (2020).

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