Choline metabolism in cancer: implications for diagnosis and therapy

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2006 Nov;6(6):821-9. doi: 10.1586/14737159.6.6.821.


Magnetic resonance studies from the last 10 years have conclusively demonstrated that choline metabolism is altered in a wide variety of cancers. In cancer, the choline metabolite profile is characterized by an elevation of phosphocholine and total choline-containing compounds. This elevation is increasingly being used as an endogenous biomarker of cancer. Importantly, the enzymes and pathways resulting in these distinct alterations in phosphocholine and total choline may provide novel molecular targets for specific, targeted anticancer therapies. In this article, we have summarized some of the magnetic resonance spectroscopy and positron emission tomography techniques that are currently available, or will be in the near future, for choline metabolism-based diagnosis, staging and therapy assessment in cancer patients. This review also outlines currently known molecular alterations that cause the aberrant choline metabolite profile in cancers and concludes with a summary of recent research findings that may, in the future, lead to novel anticancer therapies targeting choline metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Phospholipids / metabolism


  • Phospholipids
  • Choline