Review of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics in cancer research.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology (2013)


2013, October 2013, Public Health Sciences Division


Metabolomics, the systematic investigation of all metabolites present within a biological system, is used in biomarker development for many human diseases, including cancer. In this review we investigate the current role of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics in cancer research. A literature review was carried out within the databases PubMed, Embase and Web of Knowledge. We included 106 studies reporting on 21 different types of cancer in 7 different sample types. Metabolomics in cancer research is most often used for case-control comparisons. Secondary applications include translational areas, such as patient prognosis, therapy control and tumor classification or grading. Metabolomics is at a developmental stage with respect to epidemiology, with the majority of studies including <100 patients. Standardization is required especially concerning sample preparation and data analysis. In a second part of this review, we reconstructed a metabolic network of cancer patients by quantitatively extracting all reports of altered metabolites: Alterations in energy metabolism, membrane and fatty acid synthesis emerged, with tryptophan levels changed most frequently in various cancers. Metabolomics has the potential to evolve into a standard tool for future applications in epidemiology and translational cancer research, but further, large-scale studies including prospective validation are needed.