Affiliation: Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Department of Oncology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, 540.1 HWCRC, 4100 John R Road, Detroit, MI 48201- 2013.
Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase or AMPK is a highly-conserved master-regulator of numerous cellular processes, including: Maintaining cellular-energy homeostasis, modulation of cytoskeletaldynamics, directing cell growth-rates and influencing cell-death pathways. AMPK has recently emerged as a promising molecular target in cancer therapy. In fact, AMPK deficiencies have been shown to enhance cell growth and proliferation, which is consistent with enhancement of tumorigenesis by AMPK-loss. Conversely, activation of AMPK is associated with tumor growth suppression via inhibition of the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Complex-1 (mTORC1) or the mTOR signal pathway. The scientific communities’ recognition that AMPK-activating compounds possess an anti-neoplastic effect has contributed to a rush of discoveries and developments in AMPK-activating compounds as potential anticancer-drugs. One such example is the class of compounds known as Biguanides, which include Metformin and Phenformin. The current review will showcase natural compounds and their derivatives that activate the AMPK-complex and signaling pathway. In addition, the biology and history of AMPK-signaling and AMPK-activating compounds will be overviewed, their anticancer-roles and mechanisms-of-actions will be discussed, and potential strategies for the development of novel, selective AMPK-activators with enhanced efficacy and reduced toxicity will be proposed.