Prospects for clinical cancer metabolomics using stable isotope tracers

Andrew N. Lane, Teresa W.M. Fan, Richard M. Higashi, Jinlian Tan, Michael Bousamra, Donald M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Metabolomics provides a readout of the state of metabolism in cells or tissue and their responses to external perturbations. For this reason, the approach has great potential in clinical diagnostics. For more than two decades, we have been using stable isotope tracer approaches to probe cellular metabolism in greater detail. The ability to enrich common compounds with rare isotopes such as carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) is the only practical means by which metabolic pathways can be traced, which entails following the fate of individual atoms from the source molecule to products via metabolic transformation. Changes in regulation of pathways are therefore captured by this approach, which leads to deeper understanding of the fundamental biochemistry of cells. Using lessons learned from pathways tracing in cells and organs, we have been applying this methodology to human cancer patients in a clinical setting. Here we review the methodologies and approaches to stable isotope tracing in cells, animal models and in humans subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-173
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental and Molecular Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by NIH Grant RR018733 from the National Center for Research Resources, the Kentucky Challenge for Excellence, 1R01CA118434-01 and the KY Lung Cancer Research Program.


  • Isotopomer pathway analysis
  • Mass spectrometry
  • NMR
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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