Application of metabolomics to cancer epidemiology at the International Agency for Research on Cancer

The Nouveau Centre building in Lyon, which will soon become the new IARC headquarters

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), is the hub for several large international projects on cancer epidemiology and a leading institution in research on the aetiology and prevention of cancer worldwide. IARC also has a large biobank with over 5 million biospecimens collected as part of these projects. This makes IARC a unique environment to develop applications of metabolomics in cancer epidemiology. The Onco-metabolomics Team within the Nutrition and Metabolism Branch has an extensive track record in the identification of metabolic fingerprints associated with cancer outcomes, through state-of-the-art untargeted and targeted LC-MS based metabolomics approaches. Through the synergistic action of analytical chemists, epidemiologists and bioinformaticians and the extensive use of large cohorts, molecular risk factors for different types of cancers can be identified. Furthermore, the underlying mechanisms of cancer are uncovered providing novel bases for cancer prevention. Researchers in the Onco-metabolomics Team are dedicated to the identification of novel biomarkers of diet and nutrition, gut microbiota, environmental exposures, and lifestyle. These biomarkers constitute the internal exposome, and their links with cancer outcomes are studied in exposome-wide association studies. To consolidate the diffuse exposure biomarker data, the IARC team has constructed an openly available database Exposome-Explorer. This database contains comprehensive information on more than 1200 biomarkers of exposure and 462 microbial metabolites with concentrations, correlations with exposure estimates, temporal reproducibility, details on study population and analytical methods. The enthusiastic Onco-metabolomics Team at IARC is at the forefront of applications of metabolomics to cancer epidemiology.

Chrysovalantou Chatziioannou 
International Agency for Research on Cancer – World Health Organization

Chemistry as a University Degree

Chemistry became a major driving force of European science and industry in the 19th century. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier’s “new chemistry” marked the transition from the phlogiston era to near to our current understanding of chemical science. Justus von Liebig’s new teaching methods by combining lecture sessions with practical exercises contributed much to the interdisciplinary transfer of chemical knowledge. Wilhelm Ostwald, born and educated in the Baltics and early Nobel Laureate, proceeded in this way and became the founder of physical chemistry. Today, we no longer see sharp borderlines between scientific disciplines.

The development of chemistry into an independent University discipline was based on the needs of the societies. This is described in the book “Chemistry as a University Degree – Development and impact” published by the Universitätsverlag Leipzig (ISBN: 978-3-96023-416-6). The development occurred unevenly across Europe and even unevenly within countries. Ten different European regions are discussed, the examples of Germany and Spain in more detail, Germany because of the trans-national effects of Liebig at Giessen and Spain as at times atypical.

The development of chemistry teaching at European Universities in the 18th/19th century was shaped by protagonists, striking events, the establishment of chairs, the exchange of knowledge by visiting professors and students, the dissemination of textbooks, and assisted by governmental and industrial funding.

The cooperation between Central and Western Europe on one side and the Russian Empire varied significantly over time. Achievements made by the Universities in Mid and Eastern Europe were often overshadowed by the political developments during the last 150 years. The University of Dorpat (now Tartu/Estonia) was one of the pioneers and mediated the development of science across Europe. Nearly fifty graduates and Professors from this university proceeded west in the 19th century and had strong influence there on new directions in the several branches of science.

Reiner Salzer
TU Dresden

Duncan Thorburn Burns
Queen’s University Belfast

Lothar Beyer
University of Leipzig 


Greek National Research Infrastructure for Omics research

The National infrastructure FoodOmicsGR_RI coordinates research activities of more than 90 Greek researchers towards analytical, biochemical, agricultural, food/nutrition research and development. The distributed infrastructure combines experts from eight Greek Universities and Research Centers. The central scope is the development and validation of analytical protocols for the comprehensive characterization of foods and biological samples. The consortium combines strong omics expertise in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and elemental analysis with chemometrics, statistics, biochemistry, and informatics. Adjacent to these, expert application scientists bring in real life questions and initiatives, connection to end-users and stakeholders. Metabolic profiling is the major omics drive of FoodOmicsGR_RI: state-of-the-art instrumentation in mass spectrometry, analytical separations, NMR spectroscopy employ 45 validated protocols to provide metabolic profiling and/or quantitative analysis of various specimens (olive oil, wine, fruits, juices, milk and many other foods, along with virtual any type of biological fluid). Key objectives include: 1. establishment of a detailed online database of Greek food constituents; 2. exploitation of “omics” technologies to assess domestic agricultural biodiversity; 3. support authenticity-traceability control/certification of geographical and genetic origin; 4. highlighting unique characteristics of Greek products emphasising on quality, sustainability, and food safety; 5. assessment of a diet’s effect on health and well-being; 6. creating added value from agri-food industry waste.

FoodOmicsGR_RI develops novel tools to evaluate the nutritional value of Greek foods, study the role of traditional foods and Greek functional foods in the prevention of chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome to name a few), and support health claims of Greek traditional products.

FoodOmicsGR_RI provides access to facility, 20 complementary scientific disciplines and to unique, well-characterised sample sets obtained from precision farming/breeding. FoodOmicsGR_RI acts a reference center of excellence for the area that can assist and strengthen research and innovation projects realized by its partners, external researchers, private enterprises, governmental services, and end-users. FoodOmicsGR_RI is open for collaboration with national and international stakeholders.

For more information please visit our webpage:

Georgios Theodoridis 
Aristotle University Thessaloniki