A study led by the laboratory of Christian Frezza at the MRC Cancer Unit has identified the metabolic signature of human cancers. In their research Edoardo Gaude and Christian Frezza have investigated the expression of genes related to metabolic pathways in a large cohort of cancer samples from the Cancer Genome Atlas. The analysis, which was performed on more than 20 different tumour types and covered 8000 patients, revealed a series of metabolic pathways exploited by cancer to sustain their growth and proliferation. Among these pathways, they found that suppression of mitochondrial genes, was a key signature of patients with the worst clinical outcome. In the attempt to explain the link between decreased expression of mitochondrial genes and poor prognosis, they found a strong correlation between abundance of mitochondrial genes and that of genes related to the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, a gene signature of aggressive and metastatic tumours.
Consistently, they showed that metastatic melanomas exhibit a striking suppression of mitochondrial genes, compared to the primary tumour. Besides identifying a novel strategy for cancer patient stratification based on metabolic genes, this work paved the way for the investigation of novel metabolic determinants of metastasis, one of the major causes of death in cancer patients.
Their study, entitled ‘Tissue-specific and convergent metabolic transformation of cancer correlates with metastatic potential and patient survival’ was recently published in Nature Communications
Gaude E, Frezza C. Tissue-specific and convergent metabolic transformation of cancer correlates with metastatic potential and patient survival. Nat Commun. 2016 Oct 10;7:13041. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13041
Further information on research carried out by the Frezza group can be found here.