Metabolomics of colorectal cancer: Past and current analytical platforms

Michael D. Williams, Raymond Reeves, Linda S. Resar, Herbert H. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Metabolomics is coming of age as an important area of investigation which may help reveal answers to questions left unanswered or only partially understood from proteomic or genomic approaches. Increased knowledge of the relationship of genes and proteins to smaller biomolecules (metabolites) will advance our ability to diagnose, treat, and perhaps prevent cancer and other diseases that have eluded scientists for generations. Colorectal tumors are the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the USA, and the incidence is rising. Many patients present late, after the onset of symptoms, when the tumor has spread from the primary site. Once metastases have occurred, the prognosis is significantly worse. Understanding alterations in metabolic profiles that occur with tumor onset and progression could lead to better diagnostic tests as well as uncover new approaches to treat or even prevent colorectal cancer (CRC). In this review, we explore the various analytical technologies that have been applied in CRC metabolomics research and summarize all metabolites measured in CRC and integrate them into metabolic pathways. Early studies with nuclear magnetic resonance and gas-chromatographic mass spectrometry suggest that tumor cells are characterized by aerobic glycolysis, increased purine metabolism for DNA synthesis, and protein synthesis. Liquid chromatography, capillary electrophoresis, and ion mobility, each coupled with mass spectrometry, promise to advance the field and provide new insight into metabolic pathways used by cancer cells. Studies with improved technology are needed to identify better biomarkers and targets for treatment or prevention of CRC. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5013-5030
Number of pages18
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Bioanalytical methods
  • Capillary electrophoresis/ electrophoresis
  • Gas chromatography
  • High-performance liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry/inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance/electron spin resonance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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