AMP-Activated Protein Kinase: Friend or Foe in Cancer

Diana Vara-ciruelos, Madhumita Dandapani, D. Grahame Hardie (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)


The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is activated by energy stress and restores homeostasis by switching on catabolism, while switching off cell growth and proliferation. Findings that AMPK acts downstream of the tumor suppressor LKB1 have suggested that AMPK might also suppress tumorigenesis. In mouse models of B and T cell lymphoma in which genetic loss of AMPK occurred before tumor initiation, tumorigenesis was accelerated, confirming that AMPK has tumor-suppressor functions. However, when loss of AMPK in a T cell lymphoma model occurred after tumor initiation, or simultaneously with tumor initiation in a lung cancer model, the disease was ameliorated. Thus, once tumorigenesis has occurred, AMPK switches from tumor suppression to tumor promotion. Analysis of alterations in AMPK genes in human cancers suggests similar dichotomies, with some genes being frequently amplified while others are mutated. Overall, while AMPK-activating drugs might be effective in preventing cancer, in some cases AMPK inhibitors might be required to treat it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalAnnual Review of Cancer Biology
Early online date6 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2020


  • AMP-activated protein kinase, AMPK, LKB1, STK11, tumor suppressor, tumor promoter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Cell Biology
  • Oncology


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