Metabolic heterogeneity of breast tumors

Breast tumors can be very heterogeneous due to subpopulations of cancer cells giving differences in both genetic and phenotypic properties. It has been shown that tumor heterogeneity can lead to both treatment resistance and relapse, probably due to cancer cells evading treatment. In collaboration with St. Olavs University Hospital, researchers at the MR Cancer group have been collecting 2 mm thick slices from breast tumors of patients taking part in the study. The tumor slices are immediately frozen after tumor excision in order to contain the metabolite expression. This gives us the opportunity to study how metabolism differs throughout the tumor, and can tell us how representative one single biopsy, for instance a needle biopsy used for diagnosis, is for the whole tumor. The study includes patients with different breast cancer diagnoses, in addition to benign and premalignant conditions. A subset of the patients has undergone MR imaging before surgery, providing the opportunity to examine MR imaging data in correlation to metabolic heterogeneity.

Researcher at the MR Cancer group will examine the metabolic expression from different parts of the tumors by drilling out tissue biopsies from frozen tissue slices. The metabolic profile of each biopsy is measured by MR spectroscopy (MRS), and as the samples are left intact after MRS we have the opportunity to measure gene and protein expression from the same biopsies.

Figure 1: A slice from a breast tumor, where tissue biopsies have been drilled out for metabolic analyses.

PI: Tone F. Bathen, NTNU.