Choline phospholipid metabolism: a target in cancer cells?

J Cell Biochem. 2003 Oct 15;90(3):525-33. doi: 10.1002/jcb.10659.


The experience of treating cancer over the past several decades overwhelmingly demonstrates that the disease continues to evade the vast array of drugs and treatment modalities available in the twenty-first century. This is not surprising in view of the complexity of this disease, and the multiplicities of pathways available to the cancer cell to enable its survival. Although the progression of cancer arrives at a common end point of cachexia, organ failure, and death, common pathways are rare in cancer. Identifying and targeting common pathways that would act across these levels of multiplicity is essential for the successful treatment of this disease. Over the past decade, one common characteristic consistently revealed by magnetic resonance spectroscopic studies is the elevation of phosphocholine and total choline-containing compounds in cancer cells and solid tumors. This elevation has been observed in almost every single cancer type studied with NMR spectroscopy and can be used as an endogenous biomarker of cancer. In this article, we have summarized some of the observations on the choline phospholipid metabolism of cancer cells and tumors, and make a case for targeting the aberrant choline phospholipid metabolism of cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Choline Kinase / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indomethacin / pharmacology
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylcholine / metabolism*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phospholipids
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • Choline Kinase
  • Indomethacin