Cancer and Metastasis Reviews

, Volume 38, Issue 1–2, pp 189–203 | Cite as

Pro- and antitumor effects of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species

  • Valéry L. Payen
  • Luca X. Zampieri
  • Paolo E. Porporato
  • Pierre SonveauxEmail author


In cancer, mitochondrial functions are commonly altered. Directly involved in metabolic reprogramming, mitochondrial plasticity confers to cancer cells a high degree of adaptability to a wide range of stresses and to the harsh tumor microenvironment. Lack of nutrients or oxygen caused by altered perfusion, metabolic needs of proliferating cells, co-option of the microenvironment, control of the immune system, cell migration and metastasis, and evasion of exogenous stress (e.g., chemotherapy) are all, at least in part, influenced by mitochondria. Mitochondria are undoubtedly one of the key contributors to cancer development and progression. Understanding their protumoral (dys)functions may pave the way to therapeutic strategies capable of turning them into innocent entities. Here, we will focus on the production and detoxification of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS), on their impact on tumorigenesis (genetic, prosurvival, and microenvironmental effects and their involvement in autophagy), and on tumor metastasis. We will also summarize the latest therapeutic approaches involving mtROS.


Cancer Mitochondria Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS) Antioxidants Pro-oxidants mitoQ 



Works at authors’ labs are supported by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 642623 RADIATE and No. 722605 TRANSMIT, the Belgian Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (F.R.S.-FNRS), the Belgian Télévie and the Fondation Louvain (all to PS), and the Italian Ministry for University and Research (MIUR, Rita Levi-Montalcini program for young researchers 2014) to PEP. PS is a F.R.S.-FNRS Senior Research Associate. LXZ is a PhD Fellow of Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant No. 722605 TRANSMIT.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valéry L. Payen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Luca X. Zampieri
    • 1
  • Paolo E. Porporato
    • 4
  • Pierre Sonveaux
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Pole of Pharmacology, Institut de Recherche Expérimentale et Clinique (IREC)Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain)BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Pole of Pediatrics, Institut de Recherche Expérimentale et Clinique (IREC)UCLouvainBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Louvain Drug Research InstituteUCLouvainBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Health Science, Molecular Biotechnology CentreUniversity of TorinoTorinoItaly

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