mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1) plays a central role in integrating nutrient and growth factor inputs to control cell growth in all eukaryotes and is commonly deregulated in human cancers. Inhibition of mTORC1 is a promising strategy in lymphoma therapy. However, only a few drugs, such as rapamycin and its analogs (rapalogs), have been approved for treatment in a limited number of cancer types, due to their incomplete and nonspecific inhibition of mTORC1 as well as their limited effects toward the 4EBP1 pathway. 4EBP1 pathway regulates protein translation which is considered to be crucial in cancer cell survival and proliferation. In this study, we used the glycolysis inhibitor 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) together with the mitochondrial respiratory inhibitor metformin to treat aggressive B cell lymphoma cells in vitro and in vivo. We found that the combined treatment inhibited mTORC1 and its major downstream targets, including 4EBP1. As a result, combined treatment significantly inhibited tumor cell growth and survival by the inhibition of 5’ cap-dependent translation involving lymphoma associated oncogenes such as MCL-1, BCL-XL and Cyclin D1. Moreover, the combination of 2-DG and metformin suppressed tumor growth in B cell lymphoma xenograft mouse models. Although the combined treatment dramatically decreased cellular ATP levels, mTORC1 inhibition was independent of AMPK activity but instead resulted from inhibitory effects on Rag-GTPases, which are upstream activators of mTORC1. Given that both 2-DG and metformin have been used in clinical diagnosis or treatment for decades, the combination of the two drugs hold promise as a new strategy to treat aggressive B cell lymphoma.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.