Augustin Scalbert is Head of the Biomarkers Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, Lyon, France; www.iarc.fr). His current research focuses on the exposome and the identification of novel biomarkers of exposures through metabolomics to study the etiology of cancers in large cohorts. His research on plant polyphenols has received large attention from the scientific community. He has been identified as a Highly Cited Researcher in the field of Agriculture (ISI Thomson, 2005).
Metabolomics and the measurement of the exposome in epidemiological studies on cancer risk
(Marica Hall, Jun 25th, 09:30)
Much effort has been made to identify the role of the genome in the development of cancer. However cancer aetiology appears to be largely governed by lifestyle and environmental factors. Various risk factors have already been identified but the causes of many cancers still remain largely unknown. Epidemiological studies conducted so far have been largely hypothesis-driven and focused on limited numbers of risk factors. These approaches were unable to take into account the considerable number of chemicals and metabolites to which individuals are commonly exposed along lifetime and that constitute altogether the exposome. The systematic comparison of metabolic profiles of individuals at varying risk of cancer using highly sensitive mass spectrometry techniques and fully agnostic metabolomic approaches opens exciting avenues to better understand the aetiology of these diseases (Wild et al., 2013). Not only endogenous metabolites can be measured in biospecimens like urine or plasma but also a considerable number of metabolites of exogenous origin, derived from dietary compounds, contaminants, pollutants or drugs. Dietary polyphenols, a class of over 500 compounds with diverse chemical structures and biological properties, scattered in a large diversity of foods, will be taken as an example to illustrate the possibilities of metabolomics for measuring complex environmental exposures in large-scale epidemiological studies. Limitations and challenges in the application of metabolomics to nutritional and cancer epidemiology will be emphasized. Reference: Wild, C. P., A. Scalbert and Z. Herceg (2013). "Measuring the Exposome: A Powerful Basis for Evaluating Environmental Exposures and Cancer Risk." Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis 54(7): 480-499.
Nutrition and Metabolism Section, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France