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J Proteome Res. 2014 Sep 5;13(9):4040-6. doi: 10.1021/pr5003774. Epub 2014 Aug 21.

Untargeted mass spectrometry-based metabolomic profiling of pleural effusions: fatty acids as novel cancer biomarkers for malignant pleural effusions.

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Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong , Hong Kong, China.


Untargeted mass spectrometry-based metabolomic profiling is a powerful analytical method used for broad-spectrum identification and quantification of metabolites in biofluids in human health and disease states. In this study, we exploit metabolomic profiling for cancer biomarker discovery for diagnosis of malignant pleural effusions. We envisage the result will be clinically useful since currently there are no cancer biomarkers that are accurate enough for the diagnosis of malignant pleural effusions. Metabolomes of 32 malignant pleural effusions from lung cancer patients and 18 benign effusions from patients with pulmonary tuberculosis were analyzed using reversed-phase liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) using AB SCIEX TripleTOF 5600. MS spectra were analyzed using XCMS, PeakView, and LipidView. Metabolome-Wide Association Study (MWAS) was performed by Receiver Operating Characteristic Curve Explorer and Tester (ROCCET). Insignificant markers were filtered out using a metabolome-wide significance level (MWSL) with p-value < 2 × 10(-5) for t test. Only compounds in Human Metabolome Database (HMDB) will be used as cancer biomarkers. ROCCET analysis of ESI positive and negative MS spectra revealed free fatty acid (FFA) 18:1 (oleic acid) had the largest area-under-ROC of 0.96 (95% CI = 0.87-1.00) in malignant pleural effusions. Using a ratio of FFA 18:1-to-ceramide (d18:1/16:0), the area-under-ROC was further increased to 0.99 (95% CI = 0.91-1.00) with sensitivity 93.8% and specificity 100.0%. Using untargeted metabolomic profiling, the diagnostic cancer biomarker with the largest area-under-ROC can be determined objectively. This lipogenic phenotype could be explained by overexpression of fatty acid synthase (FASN) in cancer cells. The diagnostic performance of FFA 18:1-to-ceramide (d18:1/16:0) ratio supports its use for diagnosis of malignant pleural effusions.

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