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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Oct;87(20):8140-4.

Human colorectal cancers display abnormal Fourier-transform infrared spectra.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY 10021.


Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) was applied to the study of tissue sections of human colorectal cancer. Pairs of tissue samples from colorectal cancer and histologically normal mucosa 5-10 cm away from the tumor were obtained from 11 patients who underwent partial colectomy. All cancer specimens displayed abnormal spectra compared with the corresponding normal tissues. These changes involved the phosphate and C-O stretching bands, the CH stretch region, and the pressure dependence of the CH2 bending and C = O stretching modes. Our findings indicate that in colonic malignant tissue, there are changes in the degree of hydrogen-bonding of (i) oxygen atoms of the backbone of nucleic acids (increased); (ii) OH groups of serine, tyrosine, and threonine residues (any or all of them) of cell proteins (decreased); and (iii) the C = O groups of the acyl chains of membrane lipids (increased). In addition, they indicate changes in the structure of proteins and membrane lipids (as judged by the changes in their ratio of methyl to methylene groups) and in the packing and the conformational structure of the methylene chains of membrane lipids. The cell(s) of the malignant colon tissues responsible for these spectral abnormalities is unknown. Cultured colon adenocarcinoma cell lines displayed similarly abnormal FT-IR spectra. The diagnostic potential of the observed changes is discussed.

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