Research Topic

Double-edged Swords: Genetic Factors That Influence The Pathogenesis of Both Metabolic Disease and Cancer

About this Research Topic

Combined together, metabolic syndrome-associated diseases (mainly cardiovascular diseases and diabetes) and cancers account for more than half and nearly half of all mortalities in the US and worldwide, respectively. It underscores the significance of understanding the etiology of these diseases and developing effective therapies. The scientific approaches to study these diseases, however, had taken very different routes until the arrival of the genomic era.

Metabolic diseases had long been considered as polygenic events shaped by evolutionary adaptations of the human race but manifested in medical symptoms due to the modern lifestyles. Therefore, traditional treatments of metabolic diseases have mainly focused on lifestyle changes, surgical interventions, or medical/medicinal/dietary supplementation. The genomic era, however, brought a plethora of GWAS (genome-wide association studies) that identified once-elusive genetic factors of metabolic abnormalities. These new information signal the beginning of genetics-based approaches to find novel and targeted therapies for metabolic diseases.

In contrast, ever since the declaration of the “war on cancer” and way before the launching of the genomic era, cancer research has been driven by discoveries of the genetics. Our journey towards the understanding of cancers has been marked by milestones associated with important genetic discoveries, including the identifications of oncogenes and tumor suppressors. These findings led to a series of successful stories of cancer intervention, such as hormone-based therapies of breast cancers and vaccination of HPV-caused cervical cancers. Cancer researchers have since all joined the race to develop silver bullets for the next shining target. Countless GWAS and deep sequencing, however, have revealed the incredible complexity and heterogeneity of cancer development. Once considered simply a “suppuration of the blood”, cancer is at last acknowledged as a polygenic disease.

Genomic medicine in the 21st century has brought cancer and metabolic disease, two once seemingly parallel fields, as close to each other as they’ve ever been. In addition to the well-established correlation between metabolic dysfunctions and certain cancers, many genetic factors have been found to display functions regulating both ailments. This research topic aims to collect research/review articles illuminating important roles of these factors. The main objectives include the discussions of (1) Unexpected functions of well-studied genes; (2) Similarities/differences between mechanisms underlying their involvements in multiple diseases; (3) Tools and models potentially beneficial for interdisciplinary studies; and (4) The implications for the roles of existing treatments, as well as strategies to develop novel therapeutic approaches.

To understand the delicate nature of human diseases, a great window of opportunity is given by studying versatile players involving in multiple diseases. It will paint the big picture needed as the gateway to the ultimate goal of achieving “precision medicine”.


Keywords: Metabolic disease, cancer, genetic factor, diabetes, obesity


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Combined together, metabolic syndrome-associated diseases (mainly cardiovascular diseases and diabetes) and cancers account for more than half and nearly half of all mortalities in the US and worldwide, respectively. It underscores the significance of understanding the etiology of these diseases and developing effective therapies. The scientific approaches to study these diseases, however, had taken very different routes until the arrival of the genomic era.

Metabolic diseases had long been considered as polygenic events shaped by evolutionary adaptations of the human race but manifested in medical symptoms due to the modern lifestyles. Therefore, traditional treatments of metabolic diseases have mainly focused on lifestyle changes, surgical interventions, or medical/medicinal/dietary supplementation. The genomic era, however, brought a plethora of GWAS (genome-wide association studies) that identified once-elusive genetic factors of metabolic abnormalities. These new information signal the beginning of genetics-based approaches to find novel and targeted therapies for metabolic diseases.

In contrast, ever since the declaration of the “war on cancer” and way before the launching of the genomic era, cancer research has been driven by discoveries of the genetics. Our journey towards the understanding of cancers has been marked by milestones associated with important genetic discoveries, including the identifications of oncogenes and tumor suppressors. These findings led to a series of successful stories of cancer intervention, such as hormone-based therapies of breast cancers and vaccination of HPV-caused cervical cancers. Cancer researchers have since all joined the race to develop silver bullets for the next shining target. Countless GWAS and deep sequencing, however, have revealed the incredible complexity and heterogeneity of cancer development. Once considered simply a “suppuration of the blood”, cancer is at last acknowledged as a polygenic disease.

Genomic medicine in the 21st century has brought cancer and metabolic disease, two once seemingly parallel fields, as close to each other as they’ve ever been. In addition to the well-established correlation between metabolic dysfunctions and certain cancers, many genetic factors have been found to display functions regulating both ailments. This research topic aims to collect research/review articles illuminating important roles of these factors. The main objectives include the discussions of (1) Unexpected functions of well-studied genes; (2) Similarities/differences between mechanisms underlying their involvements in multiple diseases; (3) Tools and models potentially beneficial for interdisciplinary studies; and (4) The implications for the roles of existing treatments, as well as strategies to develop novel therapeutic approaches.

To understand the delicate nature of human diseases, a great window of opportunity is given by studying versatile players involving in multiple diseases. It will paint the big picture needed as the gateway to the ultimate goal of achieving “precision medicine”.


Keywords: Metabolic disease, cancer, genetic factor, diabetes, obesity


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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