Choline metabolism-based molecular diagnosis of cancer: an update

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2015 Jun;15(6):735-47. doi: 10.1586/14737159.2015.1039515. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Abnormal choline metabolism continues to be identified in multiple cancers. Molecular causes of abnormal choline metabolism are changes in choline kinase-α, ethanolamine kinase-α, phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C and -D and glycerophosphocholine phosphodiesterases, as well as several choline transporters. The net outcome of these enzymatic changes is an increase in phosphocholine and total choline (tCho) and, in some cancers, a relative decrease of glycerophosphocholine. The increased tCho signal detected by (1)H magnetic resonance spectroscopy is being evaluated as a diagnostic marker in multiple cancers. Increased expression and activity of choline transporters and choline kinase-α have spurred the development of radiolabeled choline analogs as PET imaging tracers. Both tCho (1)H magnetic resonance spectroscopy and choline PET are being investigated to detect response to treatment. Enzymes mediating the abnormal choline metabolism are being explored as targets for cancer therapy. This review highlights recent molecular, therapeutic and clinical advances in choline metabolism in cancer.

Keywords: GDPD5; GDPD6; cancer; choline kinase-α; choline metabolism; choline transporters; phospholipase C; phospholipase D; targeting; treatment strategy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline / metabolism*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy


  • Choline