Identification of biomarkers for apoptosis in cancer cell lines using metabolomics: Tools for individualized medicine

A. Halama, N. Riesen, G. Möller, M. Hrabě de Angelis, J. Adamski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

42 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Metabolomics is a versatile unbiased method to search for biomarkers of human disease. In particular, one approach in cancer therapy is to promote apoptosis in tumour cells; this could be improved with specific biomarkers of apoptosis for monitoring treatment. We recently observed specific metabolic patterns in apoptotic cell lines; however, in that study, apoptosis was only induced with one pro-apoptotic agent, staurosporine. Objective: The aim of this study was to find novel biomarkers of apoptosis by verifying our previous findings using two further pro-apoptotic agents, 5-fluorouracil and etoposide, that are commonly used in anticancer treatment. Methods: Metabolic parameters were assessed in HepG2 and HEK293 cells using the newborn screening assay adapted for cell culture approaches, quantifying the levels of amino acids and acylcarnitines with mass spectrometry. Results: We were able to identify apoptosis-specific changes in the metabolite profile. Moreover, the amino acids alanine and glutamate were both significantly up-regulated in apoptotic HepG2 and HEK293 cells irrespective of the apoptosis inducer. Conclusion: Our observations clearly indicate the potential of metabolomics in detecting metabolic biomarkers applicable in theranostics and for monitoring drug efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-439
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Internal Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013



  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers
  • Cancer
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Metabolomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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