High-performance metabolic marker assessment in breast cancer tissue by mass spectrometry

Maria Chiara Mimmi, Paola Picotti, Alessandra Corazza, Elena Betto, Carlo E. Pucillo, Laura Cesaratto, Carla Cedolini, Viviana Londero, Chiara Zuiani, Massimo Bazzocchi, Gennaro Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The identification of reliable markers for diagnosis of breast cancer has been thoroughly addressed by metabolic profiling using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy or imaging. Several clear diagnostic indicators have emerged using either in vitro analysis of tissue extracts, ex vivo analysis of biopsies or in vivo direct spectral observations. Most of the breast cancer characteristic metabolites could be assayed by mass spectrometry (MS) to exploit the superior sensitivity of this technique and therefore reduce the traumatic impact of current biopsy procedures. Methods: Following extraction, aqueous metabolite mixtures were obtained that were submitted to liquid-chromatography, electrospray-ionization, mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MS) analysis to estimate the content of choline (Cho) and its phosphorylated derivatives, phosphocholine (PCho) and glycerophosphocholine (GPCho). The determinations were performed using 10 samples from breast tissue biopsies, surgical specimens and one single sample of a hepatic metastasis. In addition, some measurements were also repeated using high-resolution 1H NMR spectroscopy to complement the mass spectrometry results. Results: The contents of Cho, PCho and GPCho in breast tissue extracts were estimated by LC/ESI-MS based on standard compound calibration curves. Sharply increased ratios of phosphorylated-to-unphosphorylated metabolites, PCho/ Cho and (PCho+GPCho)/Cho, were observed in all tumor samples, although without discrimination between benign and malignant lesions, contrary to samples from healthy individuals and from those with fibrocystic disease. Conclusions: The assessment of breast cancer markers by LC/ESI-MS is feasible and diagnostically valuable. In addition to high sensitivity, the approach also shows a resolution advantage for assaying choline derivatives compared to NMR, and could complement the latter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-324
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011


  • breast cancer
  • breast tissue metabonomics
  • choline metabolites
  • mass spectrometry metabonomics
  • tumor marker detection by nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


Dive into the research topics of 'High-performance metabolic marker assessment in breast cancer tissue by mass spectrometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this