Obesity and Cancer Metastasis: Molecular and Translational Perspectives

Type Article

Journal Article


S. Annett; G. Moore; T. Robson

Year of publication



Cancers (Basel)







Obesity is a modern health problem that has reached pandemic proportions. It is an established risk factor for carcinogenesis, however, evidence for the contribution of adipose tissue to the metastatic behavior of tumors is also mounting. Over 90% of cancer mortality is attributed to metastasis and metastatic tumor cells must communicate with their microenvironment for survival. Many of the characteristics observed in obese adipose tissue strongly mirror the tumor microenvironment. Thus in the case of prostate, pancreatic and breast cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma, which are all located in close anatomical proximity to an adipose tissue depot, the adjacent fat provides an ideal microenvironment to enhance tumor growth, progression and metastasis. Adipocytes provide adipokines, fatty acids and other soluble factors to tumor cells whilst immune cells infiltrate the tumor microenvironment. In addition, there are emerging studies on the role of the extracellular vesicles secreted from adipose tissue, and the extracellular matrix itself, as drivers of obesity-induced metastasis. In the present review, we discuss the major mechanisms responsible for the obesity-metastatic link. Furthermore, understanding these complex mechanisms will provide novel therapies to halt the tumor-adipose tissue crosstalk with the ultimate aim of inhibiting tumor progression and metastatic growth.