Melatonin modulates tumor metabolism and mitigates metastasis

Russel J. Reiter, Ramaswamy Sharma, Dun Xian Tan, Gang Huang, Luis Gustavo de Almeida Chuffa, George Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Melatonin, originally isolated from the mammalian pineal gland, was subsequently identified in many animal cell types and in plants. While melatonin was discovered to inhibit cancer more than 5 decades ago, its anti-cancer potential has not been fully exploited despite its lack of serious toxicity over a very wide dose range, high safety margin, and its efficacy. Areas covered: This review elucidates the potential mechanisms by which melatonin interferes with tumor growth and metastasis, including its ability to alter tumor cell metabolism, inhibit epithelial-mesenchymal transition, reverse cancer chemoresistance, function synergistically with conventional cancer-inhibiting drugs while limiting many of their side effects. In contrast to its function as a potent antioxidant in normal cells, it may induce oxidative stress in cancer cells, contributing to its oncostatic actions. Expert opinion: Considering the large amount of experimental data supporting melatonin’s multiple and varied inhibitory effects on numerous cancer types, coupled with the virtual lack of toxicity of this molecule, it has not been thoroughly tested as an anti-cancer agent in clinical trials. There seems to be significant resistance to such investigations, possibly because melatonin is inexpensive and non-patentable, and as a result there would be limited financial gain for its use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-336
Number of pages16
JournalExpert Review of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Cancer metastasis
  • chemoresistance
  • epithelial-mesenchymal transition
  • free radicals
  • glycolysis
  • melatonin
  • oxidative phosphorylation
  • Warburg metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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