Request for Information (RFI): Oncometabolomics for application in cancer detection, prevention and cancer health disparities

Notice Number: NOT-CA-10-002

Key Dates
Release Date: October 8, 2009
Response Date: December 15th, 2009

Issued by
National Cancer Institute (NCI), (

This Request for Information (RFI) is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and/or the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  The NCI does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information. 

Purpose and Objectives

The NCI is soliciting input from the scientific community and the general public for the new ideas pertaining to cancer detection, diagnosis, prevention, and cancer health disparities, based on the exploration of the characteristics of the cancer metabolome.  Suggestions and ideas pertaining to these aspects are also welcome from intramural NIH scientists and consultants at other NIH Institutes and Centers.


Metabolomics is the systematic study of unique patterns of metabolites (usually small-molecular-weight substances) in cells, tissues, body fluids.  The metabolome represents the collection of all metabolites in a biological system (e.g., in the cells, tissues, body fluids, etc.), and provides a comprehensive and detailed picture related to the system’s phenotype. Metabolomic analysis may thus serve as a functional read-out of the system’s physiological state. 

Oncometabolomics, i.e., the application of metabolomic approaches in oncology, is a promising area for the systematic identification and characterization of metabolic markers of cancer. It is expected that a comprehensive (i.e., oncometabolomic) characterization of global metabolomic profiles in cancer patients could be utilized to improve cancer diagnosis, prevention, and treatment, as well as decrease tumor recurrence.

Cancer cells frequently display distinct metabolic phenotypes, which are typically characterized by high glucose uptake, increased glycolytic activity, decreased mitochondrial activity, low bioenergetic status, and aberrant phospholipid metabolism. Specific metabolomic patterns may depend on the stage of the disease. Oncometabolomics in the clinical setting may help to identify, evaluate, and validate such distinct metabolomic profiles that may be useful for the early detection, diagnosis and prognosis, and/or monitoring of preventive and/or therapeutic treatment selections. Research towards development of such applications should lead to better strategies in primary and secondary cancer prevention and/or clinical improvements in personalized cancer care.

Relevance of oncometabolomics to cancer disparities. Cancer disparities are defined as differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality and burden of cancer that exist between different racial and ethnic populations. Importantly, cancer-related metabolic phenotypes may vary among various racial and ethnic groups, contributing to cancer disparities. Research at the oncometabolomic level may provide an attractive cellular/molecular basis to account for some of adverse differences in risk and development of cancer, responses to treatment, and other differential attributes of the disease among various racial and ethnic populations. Oncometabolomic approaches may thus help investigators to understand better these factors and, consequently, facilitate efforts to reduce overall cancer health disparities.

Within the framework of the NIH Roadmap Initiatives (, substantial efforts have been invested in the development of metabolomic technologies, creation of standard reagents for quantitative measurements, development of assays and analytical tools for improving detection, and for the construction of a public collection of chemically diverse small molecule standards, including a database with their chemical structure and biological activity.  The outcomes of these initiatives will facilitate further translational research on the application of oncometabolomics in clinical cancer research and care.

Strategic opportunities in oncometabolomics. Advanced innovative analytical technologies in combination with biochemical and imaging approaches can be used to characterize the cancer metabolome (e.g., body fluids or tissue samples) with the goal to identify critical metabolomic biomarkers for cancer development and progression. In addition, the advances in metabolomic technologies and resources facilitate studies aimed at understanding the differences at the metabolomic level for cancer disparities among various racial and ethnic groups.

Given these promising scientific opportunities, studies to understand the cancer metabolome, in general, and differences in the global metabolomic profiles of cancer patients are highly warranted. The NCI anticipates the need for such research over the next several years. This effort could enhance our understanding of specific cancer-related metabolic factors as well as their possible differential impacts in various racial and ethnic groups.  Advances in these directions are needed to explain how differences at the metabolomic level might influence long-term cancer risks and responses to therapies. Ultimately, these advances are expected to lead to the development of better strategies for cancer prevention and treatment and may help reduce cancer health disparities.

Information Requested

NCI seeks novel ideas that will focus on basic and/or translational research that will accelerate the application of oncometabolomics in cancer research. The information gathered will be used for developing a research opportunity for extramural investigators to promote and advance the research in the development and application of metabolomics in cancer detection, prevention, and treatment, and in cancer health disparities.


Responses will be accepted through December 15, 2009. Interested persons, groups, and organizations are invited to submit ideas in which a research problem for metabolomics in cancer detection, prevention, and health disparities is identified along with a proposal to resolve it. Responses should be limited to three pages and marked with this RFI identifier NOT-CA-10-002. Responses are preferred in electronic format and can be e-mailed to

If you are willing to do so, please indicate your primary affiliation/role from the categories listed below:

Small Business
Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Industry;
Federal Government;
State Government;
Healthcare Professional;
Patient Advocacy Group; and
Other (briefly define).

Respondents will receive an email confirmation acknowledging receipt of their response, but will not receive individualized feedback.

The NIH site will permit anonymous responses.  All individual responses will remain confidential.  Any identifiers (e.g., names, institutions, e-mail addresses, etc) will be removed when responses are compiled.  Only the processed, anonymized results will be shared internally with scientific working groups convened by the NCI, as appropriate.  Nonetheless, no proprietary information should be submitted.


Inquiries regarding this RFI may be directed to:

Rina Das, Ph.D.
Disparities Research Branch
Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 602
Rockville, MD 20852
Telephone: (301) 496-8589
Fax: (301) 435-9225

Christos Patriotis, Ph.D.
Program Director
Cancer Biomarkers Research Group
National Cancer Institute
6130 Executive Boulevard, EPN Suite 3144
Bethesda, MD 20892-7362
Telephone: 301-496-3893
Fax: 301-402-8990

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