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Disease Markers
Volume 2017, Article ID 7687851, 19 pages
Review Article

Metabolic Footprints and Molecular Subtypes in Breast Cancer

1Department of Applied Research and Technical Development, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milano, Italy
2Core Facilities, High Resolution NMR Unit, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy

Correspondence should be addressed to Vera Cappelletti;

Received 24 July 2017; Accepted 11 October 2017; Published 24 December 2017

Academic Editor: Paul Span

Copyright © 2017 Vera Cappelletti et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cancer treatment options are increasing. However, even among the same tumor histotype, interpatient tumor heterogeneity should be considered for best therapeutic result. Metabolomics represents the last addition to promising “omic” sciences such as genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics. Biochemical transformation processes underlying energy production and biosynthetic processes have been recognized as a hallmark of the cancer cell and hold a promise to build a bridge between genotype and phenotype. Since breast tumors represent a collection of different diseases, understanding metabolic differences between molecular subtypes offers a way to identify new subtype-specific treatment strategies, especially if metabolite changes are evaluated in the broader context of the network of enzymatic reactions and pathways. Here, after a brief overview of the literature, original metabolomics data in a series of 92 primary breast cancer patients undergoing surgery at the Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori of Milano are reported highlighting a series of metabolic differences across various molecular subtypes. In particular, the difficult-to-treat luminal B subgroup represents a tumor type which preferentially relies on fatty acids for energy, whereas HER2 and basal-like ones show prevalently alterations in glucose/glutamine metabolism.