Evaluation of 2-deoxy-D-glucose as a chemotherapeutic agent: Mechanism of cell death

Rebecca L. Aft, F. W. Zhang, D. Gius

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222 Scopus citations


Nutrient deprivation has been shown to cause cancer cell death. To exploit nutrient deprivation as anti-cancer therapy, we investigated the effects of the anti-metabolite 2-deoxy-D-glucose on breast cancer cells in vitro. This compound has been shown to inhibit glucose metabolism. Treatment of human breast cancer cell lines with 2-deoxy-D-glucose results in cessation of cell growth in a dose dependent manner. Cell viability as measured by the 3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2, 5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide conversion assay and clonogenic survival are decreased with 2-deoxy-D-glucose treatment indicating that 2-deoxy-D-glucose causes breast cancer cell death. The cell death induced by 2-deoxy-D-glucose was found to be due to apoptosis as demonstrated by induction of caspase 3 activity and cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. Breast cancer cells treated with 2-deoxy-D-glucose express higher levels of Glut 1 transporter protein as measured by Western blot analysis and have increased glucose uptake compared to non-treated breast cancer cells. From these results we conclude that 2-deoxy-D-glucose treatment causes death in human breast cancer cell lines by the activation of the apoptotic pathway. Our data suggest that breast cancer cells treated with 2-deoxy-D-glucose accelerate their own demise by initially expressing high levels of glucose transporter protein, which allows increased uptake of 2-deoxy-D-glucose, and subsequent induction of cell death. These data support the targeting of glucose metabolism as a site for chemotherapeutic intervention by agents such as 2-deoxy-D-glucose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-812
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Breast cancer
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Tumour metabolism


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