J Clin Oncol. 2023 Nov 9:JCO2202754. doi: 10.1200/JCO.22.02754. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE: To provide an overview on how the application of metabolomics (high-throughput characterization of metabolites from cells, organs, tissues, or biofluids) to population-based studies may inform our understanding of breast cancer etiology.
METHODS: We evaluated studies that applied metabolomic analyses to prediagnostic blood samples from prospective epidemiologic studies to identify circulating metabolites associated with breast cancer risk, overall and by breast cancer subtype and menopausal status. We provide some important considerations for the application and interpretation of metabolomics approaches in this context.
RESULTS: Overall, specific lipids and amino acids were indicated as the most common metabolite classes associated with breast cancer development. However, comparison of results across studies is challenging because of heterogeneity in laboratory techniques, analytical methods, sample size, and applied statistical methods.
CONCLUSION: Metabolomics is being increasingly applied to population-based studies for the identification of new etiologic hypotheses and/or mechanisms related to breast cancer development. Despite its success in applications to epidemiology, studies of larger sample size with detailed information on menopausal status, breast cancer subtypes, and repeated biologic samples collected over time are needed to improve comparison of results between studies and enhance validation of results, allowing potential clinical translation of findings.