Research in many cancers has uncovered changes in metabolic pathways that control tumour energetics and biosynthesis, so-called metabolic reprogramming. Studies in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) have been particularly revealing, leading to the concept that ccRCC is a metabolic disease. ccRCC is generally accompanied by reprogramming of glucose and fatty acid metabolism and of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Metabolism of tryptophan, arginine and glutamine is also reprogrammed in many ccRCCs, and these changes provide opportunities for new therapeutic strategies, biomarkers and imaging modalities. In particular, metabolic reprogramming facilitates the identification of novel and repurposed drugs that could potentially be used to treat ccRCC, which when metastatic has currently limited long-term treatment options. Further research and dissemination of these concepts to nephrologists and oncologists will lead to clinical trials of therapeutics specifically targeted to tumour metabolism, rather than generally toxic to all proliferating cells. Such novel agents are highly likely to be more effective and to have far fewer adverse effects than existing drugs.
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