New opportunities for personalised cancer medicine

Activation of lipid metabolism is an early event in carcinogenesis and a central hallmark of many cancers. However, the precise molecular composition of lipids in tumours remains generally poorly characterised. Scientists from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Charité Hospital have found lipids in tumours which are associated with cancer progression.

A new study performed by Matej Orešič and colleagues from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in collaboration with the team of Carsten Denkert (Institute of Pathology, Charité Hospital, Berlin, Germany) in the European consortium METAcancer reveals specific lipids found in tumours associated with cancer progression and patient survival. These findings, which were published in Cancer Research, might be an important step towards the development of personalised cancer therapeutics.

The team used lipidomics, a high-throughput method for detecting molecular lipids, to analyse a large number of breast tumour tissues. Specific phospholipids related to cellular fatty acid synthesis were associated with cancer progression and patient survival. Follow-up in vitro studies, including gene silencing, identified several lipid metabolism genes behind the observed lipid changes in tumours.

The findings imply that phospholipids may have diagnostic potential, and that modulation of their metabolism may provide new therapeutic opportunities in breast cancer treatment.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Commission's 7th RTD Framework Programme (Collaborative Project no. HEALTH-F2-2008-200327).

M. Hilvo, C. Denkert, L. Lehtinen, B. Müller, S. Brockmöller, T. Seppänen-Laakso, J. Budczies, E. Bucher, L. Yetukuri, S. Castillo, E. Berg, H. Nygren, M. Sysi-Aho, J. L. Griffin, O. Fiehn, S. Loibl, C. Richter-Ehrenstein, C. Radke, T. Hyötyläinen, O. Kallioniemi, K. Iljin, M. Orešič, Novel theranostic opportunities offered by characterization of altered membrane lipid metabolism in breast cancer progression, Cancer Res. (2011). doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3894.