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Oncology Solutions

Cancer and Metabolism

Disrupted cellular metabolism is a key feature of cancer cells. As early as 1927, Otto Warburg noticed that they consumed 200 times more glucose than normal cells, while in 2011, Doug Hanahan and Bob Weinberg added “cellular energetics,” later renamed “reprogramming cellular metabolism,” to their original list of six hallmarks of cancer. Cancer has numerous effects on metabolism, with rewiring of intracellular metabolism, rewiring of the tumor microenvironment, and changes in the metabolism of normal tissues occurring. Metabolism in cancer is further affected by treatment, diet, and physical activity.

Traditional Drug Discovery is a Lengthy Process

Although the progress in cancer care is advancing at an unprecedented pace, many cancer types remain deadly. Precision oncology is part of precision medicine dedicated to the task of preventing cancer and delivering the most appropriate therapy to the right patients at the correct time. The identification of actionable targets is paramount, but insufficient. Indeed, drug discovery in oncology is often hindered by the lack of linkage data for new genetic variants, animal models, and understanding of molecular mechanisms. Biomarkers are needed to establish the diagnosis, prognosis, drug response, safety, interactions, patient stratification, and disease classification. Global metabolomics can help with the discovery of all ingredients for successful tailored therapy in cancer.

Metabolomics as a Facilitator in Oncology Research

Metabolomics is the global analysis of small molecule metabolites that, similarly to other omics, can provide vital information on the cancer state otherwise difficult to acquire. Metabolomics, when performed and analyzed correctly, gives a read-out of the ultimate phenotype that is the result of interactions between exposures, treatments, and all other factors that can alter DNA and RNA metabolism, as well as protein activity. Sometimes, metabolomics may be the most sensitive method to identify pathogenic variants, as minute changes in protein structure or its expression levels can result in significant changes in its activity causing alterations to metabolite levels.

The Potential of Metabolomics

Metabolon has vast expertise in metabolomics and a library of over 5,400 metabolites to enable broad coverage of small molecules of a wide range of biochemical classes that play important roles in the human body. The application of metabolomics in oncology research and the clinic via global metabolomics may help unravel cancer risk factors, identify biomarkers for screening, diagnosis, and monitoring, and also provide insights into the biology and therefore into therapeutic targets. Metabolomics can be combined with other omics sciences to obtain additional insights into phenomena like drug resistance.

See how Metabolon can advance your path to preclinical and clinical insights

Metabolomics Panels for Cancer

Amino Acids Targeted Panel

Amino acids (AA) are the foundational building blocks for peptides and proteins. These small molecules regulate metabolic pathways that are involved in cell maintenance, growth, reproduction, and immunity. Branched chain amino acids play a large role in building muscle tissue and participate in increasing protein synthesis. Amino acids also play a role in cell signaling, gene expression and protein phosphorylation. Maintaining an optimal balance of amino acids is vital to maintaining a stable equilibrium of physiological processes.
Amino Acids Targeted Panel
Bile Acids Targeted Panel

Bile Acids Targeted Panel

Bile acids are derived from cholesterol and serve an important role in emulsifying and digesting lipids. In addition, their metabolism is intimately involved with the microbiota, and they have been shown to exhibit endocrine and metabolic activity via receptors like FXR and TGR5. The Bile Acids Targeted Panel measures all the major human and rodent primary and secondary bile acids as well as their glycine and taurine conjugates.

Central Carbons Targeted Panel

Central carbon metabolism involves the enzymatic conversion of sugars into metabolic precursors that are used to generate the entire biomass of the cell. The metabolites in this panel include key citric acid cycle compounds that connect carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. In addition to supplying key metabolic precursors, central carbon metabolism is used to oxidize simple sugar molecules obtained from food to supply energy to living systems. Measurement of central carbon metabolites has great industrial relevance since it may allow the engineering of selected metabolic steps to optimize carbon flow toward precursors for industrially important metabolites.
Central Carbons Targeted Panel
Free Fatty Acids Targeted Panel

Free Fatty Acids Targeted Panel

Fatty acids play many physiologically important roles in an organism. They are not only key metabolites of energy storage and production but also the basic building blocks of complex lipids that form cellular membranes. A variety of bioactive forms of fatty acid metabolites, known as lipid mediators, act as local hormones and are involved in many physiological systems and pathological processes. Free fatty acids (FFA, non-esterified fatty acids, NEFA) are the nonbound fraction of the total fatty acid pool. The determination of FFAs in plasma (or serum) is of clinical relevance as the association between FFAs and many diseases is well-known (eg, insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease).

Impaired Glucose Tolerance Targeted Panel

Impaired Glucose Tolerance is a prediabetic state of hyperglycemia that is associated with insulin resistance and an increased risk of cardiovascular pathology (Barr, 2007). The condition occurs when blood glucose levels remain high for an extended period after oral ingestion of glucose but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance can be assessed with a single fasted blood draw by measuring a panel of selected metabolites comprised of two small organic acids (α-hydroxybutyric acid (AHB) and 4-methyl-2-oxopentanoic acid (4MOP)), 2 lipids (oleic acid and linoleoyl glycerophosphocholine (LGPC)), a ketone body (β-hydroxybutyric acid (BHBA)), an amino acid (serine), a vitamin (pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)), and glucose.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance Targeted Panel
Tryptophan Kynurenine Ratio Targeted Panel

Tryptophan/Kynurenine Ratio Targeted Panel

The kynurenine pathway is a metabolic pathway leading to the production of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) from the enzymatic conversion of tryptophan. Immune activation leads to the formation of kynurenine with corresponding loss of tryptophan. The kynurenine/tryptophan ratio has been used to reflect the activity of the tryptophan-degrading enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) in cellular inflammatory response related to symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, and other neurological diseases.

Metabolon in Action

Identify a key pathway in lung cancer epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and drug resistance

Metabolon collaborates with a leading provider of life-saving medicines developed with biotechnology to connect metabolic rewiring with EMT and acquired drug resistance in lung cancer.

Read the case study

Metabolomics Provides Insight for Treating Drug-Resistant Relapsed Leukemia

Global metabolomics offers a powerful tool to identify the root cause of chemotherapy resistance in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, paving the way for future research to leverage metabolomics for insights into other treatment-resistant cancers.

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Identification of Therapeutic Target for a Rare Disease Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM)

Insights gained from Metabolon Discovery: Global Panel identified COX-2 and COX-dependent inflammatory mediators as useful biomarkers, predictive of prognosis and treatment outcome in LAM patients. This research led to a pilot clinical trial investigating COX-2 inhibition in LAM and TSC (COLA).

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Better Immunotherapy Outcomes by Improving NK Cell Therapy

Metabolomics is used to increase efficacy of immunotherapy via improving iPSC-derived cell therapy.

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Interested in Further Studies?

Why Metabolon?

Once you see the full value of metabolomics, the only remaining question is who does it best? While many laboratories have metabolite profiling or analytical chemistry capabilities, comprehensive metabolomics technologies are extremely rare. Accurate, unbiased metabolite identification across the entire metabolome introduces signal-to-noise challenges that very few labs are equipped to handle. Also, translating massive quantities of data into actionable information is slow, if not impossible, for most because proper interpretation takes two things that are in short supply: experience and a comprehensive database.

Only Metabolon has all four core metabolomics capabilities



Ability to interrogate thousands of metabolites across diverse biochemical space, revealing new insights and opportunities



Ability to integrate the data from different studies into the same dataset, in different geographies, among different patients over time



Ability to inform on proper study design, generate high‐quality data, derive biological insights, and make actionable recommendations



Ability to process hundreds of thousands of samples quickly and cost‐efficiently to service rapidly growing demand

Partner with Metabolon to access:


A library of 5,400+ known metabolites, 2,000 in human plasma, all referenced in the context of biochemical pathways

  • That’s 5x the metabolites of the closest competitor

Unparalleled depth and breadth of experience analyzing and interpreting metabolomic data to find meaningful results

  • 10,000+ projects with hundreds of clients
  • 2,000+ publications covering 500 diseases, including numerous peer-reviewed journals such as Cell, Nature and Science
  • Nearly 40 PhDs in data science, molecular biology, and biochemistry

Using our robust platform and visualization tools, our experts are uniquely able to tell you more about your molecule and develop assay panels to help you zero in on the results you need.

Contact Us

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Request a quote for our services, get more information on sample types and handling procedures, request a letter of support, or submit a question about how metabolomics can advance your research.

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