Research Groups

Nutrition and Metabolism - Biomarkers Group

Current Research Topics:

1. Development of new methods for the measurement of biomarkers to improve the assessment of diet and physical activity, and other environmental risk factors

- Identify new biomarkers of dietary lipids and metabolism (e.g. plasma (trans) fatty acids, peroxides, enzyme activities). Lipidomics - the systems-level analysis of lipids and related lipid metabolic enzymes - is a young field of biomedical research, largely due to the complexity of lipids and the lack of powerful tools for their analysis. Improved analytical approaches will allow analysis of new biomarkers of dietary fatty acids (e.g. plasma trans fatty acid isomers), lipids (e.g. sphingolipides) and fatty acid metabolism (e.g. peroxides, enzymes activities).

- Identify in the variety of metabolites present in human biofluids and directly derived from the digestion of foods (food metabolome), biomarkers for food intake and dietary patterns. This also includes the identification of a variety of food contaminants in human biofluids, with a focus on xenoestrogens

- Identify new biomarkers for polyphenol exposure in urine and plasma that reflect the diversity of the compounds regularly ingested with the diet and develop a rapid method for their quantification in biofluids.

- Construct a database on biomarkers for food and nutrient intake.

2. Application of biomarker measurements to case-control and large cohort studies on cancer risk

- Endogenous hormones (sex steroids, growth factors, insulin, thyroid hormones) and risk of cancer (thyroid, breast) and intermediate end-points (mammographic density, metabolic syndrome) in large cohort studies (EPIC, ES-MAESTRAS).

- Lipids, fatty acids and cancer risk. The role of fat intake in cancer aetiology still remains controversial, largely due to analytical limitations. Application of improved and new biomarkers of lipids and lipid metabolic enzymes to epidemiological studies on cancer will increase our knowledge of lipid function in cancer risk.

- B-vitamins, MTHFR polymorphisms and cancer risk. The lack of prospective studies investigating a role of dietary B-vitamins and related enzymes polymorphisms in cancer aetiology limits the firm identification of B-vitamins as being associated with cancer. Biomarker approaches developed through national and international collaborations will allow to clarify the role of B vitamins in cancer risk.