Each year more than 685000 women die of breast cancer and metastasis formation is responsible for 90% of the mortality. Therefore, predicting metastasis risk and understanding as well as intercepting metastasis formation is of utmost importance to improve patient survival. We have discovered that metabolic rewiring in primary breast tumors correlates with the risk of metastasis formation and that targeting metabolic rewiring in disseminated cancer cells decreases metastasis formation.
However, until now our resolution to define metabolic rewiring was limited to a bulk analysis of homogenized tissues, which majorly limited our ability to understand metabolic communication and competition in the tumor microenvironment and in future organs of metastasis. The funding from the Beug foundation was an essential contributor to our ability to overcome this limitation because it enabled us to successfully use spatial metabolomics with close to single cell resolution. Consequently, this allowed us to map metabolism is space and to better define and intercept metabolic heterogeneity in primary tumors and tumor-stromal cell communication in future organs of metastasis. Specifically, we identified nutrient priming in future organs of metastasis as a major contributor to metastasis growth that can be intercepted by targeting nutrient processing enzymes. Moreover, we were able to secure follow up funding within a large consortium effort to study the perivascular niche and its importance as a driver of metabolic heterogeneity and metastasis formation risk in tumors.
In conclusion, with the support of Beug foundation we pathed the ground for understanding and intercepting metabolic heterogeneity in the tumor microenvironment. We expect that this will allow us in the future to protect organs from metastasis formation to increase patient survival.