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Metabolomics. 2017;13(5):61. doi: 10.1007/s11306-017-1199-6. Epub 2017 Apr 1.

Discrimination of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis by LC-MS metabolomics.

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Science for Life Laboratory, Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology (CLINTEC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Molecular Biology, Umeå University, 90187 Umeå, Sweden.



Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death in Europe with a 5-year survival rate of <5%. Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is a risk factor for PDAC development, but in the majority of cases malignancy is discovered too late for curative treatment. There is at present no reliable diagnostic marker for PDAC available.


The aim of the study was to identify single blood-based metabolites or a panel of metabolites discriminating PDAC and CP using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS).


A discovery cohort comprising PDAC (n = 44) and CP (n = 23) samples was analyzed by LC-MS followed by univariate (Student's t test) and multivariate (orthogonal partial least squares-discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA)) statistics. Discriminative metabolite features were subject to raw data examination and identification to ensure high feature quality. Their discriminatory power was then confirmed in an independent validation cohort including PDAC (n = 20) and CP (n = 31) samples.


Glycocholic acid, N-palmitoyl glutamic acid and hexanoylcarnitine were identified as single markers discriminating PDAC and CP by univariate analysis. OPLS-DA resulted in a panel of five metabolites including the aforementioned three metabolites as well as phenylacetylglutamine (PAGN) and chenodeoxyglycocholate.


Using LC-MS-based metabolomics we identified three single metabolites and a five-metabolite panel discriminating PDAC and CP in two independent cohorts. Although further study is needed in larger cohorts, the metabolites identified are potentially of use in PDAC diagnostics.


Biomarkers; Discovery; LC-MS; Metabolism; Metabolomics; Pancreatic cancer; Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; Pancreatitis; Plasma; Serum; Validation

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