The ambition of the VIB Center for Cancer Biology (CCB) is to contribute to a better understanding of the biology that underlies cancer initiation, progression and metastatic dissemination with the ultimate goal to develop more effective and specific anti-cancer (combination) therapies.
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Metabolism describes the whole of enzymatic reactions occurring inside and outside the cellular environment. Understanding how this 'engine' of reactions works and more importantly, understanding the metabolic alterations occurring during specific conditions and diseases, provides a powerful tool for the development of novel drug strategies. Studying metabolism gives researchers an idea about the signatures of biochemical activities in their model system.
For the analysis of metabolism we have both gas and liquid chromatography based mass spectrometers operational allowing great versatility for the study of diverse classes of metabolites. Analyses range from studying global metabolite levels (measuring up to 150-300 metabolites involved in diverse pathways) to highly specific targeted methods such as Multiple/Single Reaction Monitoring assays (MRM/SRM)). Furthermore, we are using and optimizing a diverse range of chromatographic set-ups (Hydrophilic Interaction Chromatography (HILIC), Reversed Phase (C18, C4), silica hydride, etc) to tackle the analysis of metabolites.
The laboratory holds expertise in 13C metabolic tracer studies, these are based on the principle that when 13C-labeled metabolites (for instance 13C glucose, 13C glutamine) are administered to cell cultures or to organisms, the subsequent 13C labeling pattern of downstream metabolites will depend on the amount of activation (flux) of metabolic reactions and pathways. Using 13C isotope incorporation studies, researchers can quantify these fluxes and pinpoint the crucial reactions in the entire metabolic network (Crown and Antoniewicz 2013; Weitzel, Noh et al. 2013). The Vesalius Research Center invested in obtaining this unique knowhow and we currently apply it onto the understanding of endothelial cell metabolism.
We are also interested in understanding metabolic crosstalk. Indeed, when specific metabolite levels are increased during certain conditions, they can serve as signaling molecules (through the modifications of biomolecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins). We aim at understanding how this crosstalk occurs and what the biochemical consequences are, especially during endothelial cell proliferation.