Reprogrammed metabolism is a hallmark of cancer, but notoriously difficult to target due to metabolic plasticity, especially in response to single metabolic interventions. Combining mTOR inhibitor everolimus and mitochondrial complex 1 inhibitor metformin results in metabolic synergy in in vitro models of triple-negative breast cancer. Here, we investigated whether the effect of this drug combination on tumor size is reflected in changes in tumor metabolism using [U- 13C]glucose labeling in an MDA-MB-231 triple negative breast cancer xenograft model. The in vitro effects of everolimus and metformin treatment on oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis reflected changes in 13C-labeling of metabolites in MDA-MB-231 cells. Treatment of MDA-MB-231 xenografts in SCID/Beige mice with everolimus resulted in slower tumor growth and reduced tumor size and tumor viability by 35%. Metformin treatment moderately inhibited tumor growth but did not enhance everolimus-induced effects. High serum levels of everolimus were reached, whereas levels of metformin were relatively low. Everolimus decreased TCA cycle metabolite labeling and inhibited pyruvate carboxylase activity. Metformin only caused a mild reduction in glycolytic metabolite labeling and did not affect pyruvate carboxylase activity or TCA cycle metabolite labeling. In conclusion, treatment with everolimus, but not metformin, decreased tumor size and viability. Furthermore, the efficacy of everolimus was reflected in reduced 13C-labeling of TCA cycle intermediates and reduced pyruvate carboxylase activity. By using in-depth analysis of drug-induced changes in glucose metabolism in combination with measurement of drug levels in tumor and plasma, effects of metabolically targeted drugs can be explained, and novel targets can be identified.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116362
Number of pages10
JournalBiomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie
Early online date2-Mar-2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2024


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