Fundamental metabolic pathways are essential for mammalian cells to provide energy, precursors for biosynthesis of macromolecules, and reducing power for redox regulation. While dysregulated metabolism (e.g., aerobic glycolysis also known as the Warburg effect) has long been recognized as a hallmark of cancer, recent discoveries of metabolic reprogramming in immune cells during their activation and differentiation have led to an emerging concept of "immunometabolism." Considering the recent success of cancer immunotherapy in the treatment of several cancer types, increasing research efforts are being made to elucidate alterations in metabolic profiles of cancer and immune cells during their interplays in the setting of cancer progression and immunotherapy. In this review, we summarize recent advances in studies of metabolic reprogramming in cancer as well as differentiation and functionality of various immune cells. In particular, we will elaborate how distinct metabolic pathways in the tumor microenvironment cause functional impairment of immune cells and contribute to immune evasion by cancer. Lastly, we highlight the potential of metabolically reprogramming the tumor microenvironment to promote effective and long-lasting antitumor immunity for improved immunotherapeutic outcomes.
Clinical studies have revealed that breast cancers contain regions of intratumoral hypoxia (reduced oxygen availability), which activates hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). The relationship between intratumoral hypoxia, distant metastasis and cancer mortality has been well established. A major mechanism by which intratumoral hypoxia contributes to disease progression is through induction of the breast cancer stem cell (BCSC) phenotype. BCSCs are a small subpopulation of cells with the capability for self-renewal. BCSCs have been implicated in resistance to chemotherapy, disease recurrence, and metastasis. In this review, we will discuss our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying HIF-dependent induction of the BCSC phenotype in response to hypoxia or chemotherapy.
Cancer immunotherapy fights against cancer by modulating the immune response and is delivering encouraging results in clinical treatments. However, it is challenging to achieve durable response in all cancer patients during treatment due to the diversity and dynamic nature of immune system as well as inter-and intratumor heterogeneity. A comprehensive assessment of system immunity and tumor microenvironment is crucial for effective and safe cancer therapy, which can potentially be resolved by single-cell proteomic analysis. Single-cell proteomic technologies enable system-wide profiling of protein levels in a number of single cells within the immune system and tumor microenvironment, and thereby provide direct assessment of the functional state of the immune cells and tumor-immune interaction that could be used to evaluate efficacy of immunotherapy and to improve clinical outcome. In this chapter, we summarized current single-cell proteomic technologies and their applications in cancer immunotherapy.