The aim of the project was to apply ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography–quadrupole-Orbitrap-high-resolution mass spectrometry for serum metabolite profiling of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This Orbitrap-based methodology has been applied for a study of NSCLC potential markers for the first time.
After extraction using protein precipitation, sera were separated on the ACE Excel 2 C18-PFP (100 × 2.1 mm, 2.0 µm) column using gradient elution and analyzed within the range of 70–1000 m/z. Only patients with early stage disease (stages IA–IIB) were included in the study, providing opportunity to find biomarkers for early lung cancer detection. The resulting metabolite profiles were subjected to univariate and multivariate statistical tests.
36 features were found significantly changed between NSCLC group and controls after FDR adjustment and 19 were identified using various metabolite databases (in-house library, HMDB, mzCloud). The study revealed a number of NSCLC biomarker candidates which belong to such compound classes as acylcarnitines, organic acids, and amino acids. Multivariate ROC curve built using 12 identified metabolites was characterized by AUC = 0.836 (0.722–0.946). There were no significant differences in the serum metabolite profiles between two most common histological types of lung cancer—adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Through identification of novel potential tumor markers, Orbitrap-based global metabolic profiling is a useful strategy in cancer research. Our study can accelerate development of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in NSCLC. The metabolites involved in discrimination between NSCLC patients and the control subjects should be further explored using a targeted approach.