Normal cells utilize glucose as fuel and metabolize it differently based on the availability of oxygen. When oxygen is present, glucose is metabolized through the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and electron transport chain to produce 36 adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules for each glucose molecule. In oxygen deprived tissue, glucose is converted to lactic acid through glycolysis, which yields only 2 ATP molecules per glucose molecule. Cancer cells have been shown to utilize glucose through glycolysis even in the presence of adequate oxygen. This process, known as the Warburg Effect (WE), is a primary reason for the increased utilization of glucose by tumor cells and the resulting production of lactic acid.
Citation: Serfin J, Carragher J, Groman A, Dexter EU, Yendamuri S (2011) Outcome Prediction Using Markers of Aerobic Glycolysis (the Warburg effect) Varies Between Tumor Regions in Stage I Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. J Mol Biomark Diagn 2:116.