The significance of ferritin in cancer: Anti-oxidation, inflammation and tumorigenesis

Ahmed A. Alkhateeb, James Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


The iron storage protein ferritin has been continuously studied for over 70. years and its function as the primary iron storage protein in cells is well established. Although the intracellular functions of ferritin are for the most part well-characterized, the significance of serum (extracellular) ferritin in human biology is poorly understood. Recently, several lines of evidence have demonstrated that ferritin is a multi-functional protein with possible roles in proliferation, angiogenesis, immunosuppression, and iron delivery. In the context of cancer, ferritin is detected at higher levels in the sera of many cancer patients, and the higher levels correlate with aggressive disease and poor clinical outcome. Furthermore, ferritin is highly expressed in tumor-associated macrophages which have been recently recognized as having critical roles in tumor progression and therapy resistance. These characteristics suggest ferritin could be an attractive target for cancer therapy because its down-regulation could disrupt the supportive tumor microenvironment, kill cancer cells, and increase sensitivity to chemotherapy. In this review, we provide an overview of the current knowledge on the function and regulation of ferritin. Moreover, we examine the literature on ferritin's contributions to tumor progression and therapy resistance, in addition to its therapeutic potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-254
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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