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Proteomics. 2019 Nov;19(21-22):e1900042. doi: 10.1002/pmic.201900042. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

Challenges and Opportunities in Cancer Metabolomics.

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Department of Genetics, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, 7620 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX, 78227, USA.
Center for Precision Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Molecular Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC, 27157, USA.


Challenges in metabolomics for a given spectrum of disease are more or less comparable, ranging from the accurate measurement of metabolite abundance, compound annotation, identification of unknown constituents, and interpretation of untargeted and analysis of high throughput targeted metabolomics data leading to the identification of biomarkers. However, metabolomics approaches in cancer studies specifically suffer from several additional challenges and require robust ways to sample the cells and tissues in order to tackle the constantly evolving cancer landscape. These constraints include, but are not limited to, discriminating the signals from given cell types and those that are cancer specific, discerning signals that are systemic and confounded, cell culture-based challenges associated with cell line identities and media standardizations, the need to look beyond Warburg effects, citrate cycle, lactate metabolism, and identifying and developing technologies to precisely and effectively sample and profile the heterogeneous tumor environment. This review article discusses some of the current and pertinent hurdles in cancer metabolomics studies. In addition, it addresses some of the most recent and exciting developments in metabolomics that may address some of these issues. The aim of this article is to update the oncometabolomics research community about the challenges and potential solutions to these issues.


cancer; cell type; heterogeneity; mass spectrometry; oncometabolite; single cell; untargeted


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