The application of metabolomics towards cancer research has led to a renewed appreciation of metabolism in cancer development and progression. It has also led to the discovery of metabolite cancer biomarkers and the identification of a number of novel cancer causing metabolites. The rapid growth of metabolomics in cancer research is also leading to challenges. In particular, with so many cancer-associate metabolites being identified, it is often difficult to keep track of which compounds are associated with which cancers. It is also challenging to track down information on the specific pathways that particular metabolites, drugs or drug metabolites may be affecting. Even more frustrating are the difficulties associated with identifying metabolites from NMR or MS spectra. Fortunately, a number of metabolomics databases are emerging that are designed to address these challenges. One such database is the Human Metabolome Database (HMDB). The HMDB is currently the world's largest and most comprehensive, organism-specific metabolomics database. It contains more than 40,000 metabolite entries, thousands of metabolite concentrations, >700 metabolic and disease-associated pathways, as well as information on dozens of cancer biomarkers. This review is intended to provide a brief summary of the HMDB and to offer some guidance on how it can be used in metabolomic studies of cancer.
Keywords: Human Metabolome Database (HMDB); biomarkers; cancer metabolomics; metabolomics databases; oncometabolites.