Associations of branched-chain amino acids with parameters of energy balance and survival in colorectal cancer patients: Results from the ColoCare Study

Metabolomics. 2018 Mar;2018(14):22. doi: 10.1007/s11306-017-1314-8. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Background: Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) have been previously linked to survival in colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. It is unclear whether BCAAs are prognostic biomarkers or surrogate markers for energy balance.

Objectives: We aimed to determine correlations of BCAAs with markers of energy balance over time and to investigate prognostic significance of BCAAs in CRC.

Methods: We used urinary samples from newly diagnosed CRC patients [n=163; (stage I - IV)] from the ColoCare study in Heidelberg, Germany, collected at surgery (n=163), 6 (n=83) and 12 months follow-up (n=54). Isoleucine, leucine, valine, (2Z)-3-methylglutaconic acid (3HM), 2-ethylhydracrylic acid (2EA), 2-methyl-3-hydroxybutyrate (2M3H) were detected using gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry and proton-nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy. Partial correlation coefficients between BCAAs with body mass index (BMI), physical activity (metabolic equivalent [MET]) and muscle area were computed and adjusted for sex and age at diagnosis. We used Cox proportional hazard models to investigate overall survival (OS) after 24 months of follow-up.

Results: We did not observe significant correlations between BCAAs and parameters of energy balance at all time points (correlation ranges: BMI: r= -0.13 to -0.01; METs: r=-0.14 to 0.02; dorsal muscle: r=-0.03 to 0.10). BCAAs were not associated with risk of death in stage I-III (e.g., valine: HRlog2=1.62, p=0.25) or in stage IV tumors. Elevated concentrations of 2EA and 2M3H were significantly associated with OS, independent of stage (2EA: stage I-III: HRlog2=0.42, p=0.04; stage IV: HRlog2=0.51, p=0.01).

Conclusion: Our study suggests that BCAAs in colorectal cancer patients do not reflect parameters of energy balance and may be independently associated with overall survival.