Metabolic Phenotyping of Blood Plasma Enables Lung Cancer Detection

Metabolic Phenotyping of Blood Plasma Enables Lung Cancer Detection
Metabolic Phenotyping of Blood Plasma Enables Lung Cancer Detection

Unique metabolic biomarkers specific to lung cancer were found in patients with the disease through metabolic phenotyping of blood plasma by proton nuclear magnetic resonance (H-NMR). The biomarkers allowed diagnosis of early-stage and late-stage lung cancer in a cohort of patients.1

Although low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) is the tool currently used for lung cancer screening, LDCT produces a high rate of false-positive results. The use of biomarkers for lung cancer as part of the diagnostic process could reduce the number of false-positive cases. Because the metabolism of cancer cells differs from that of noncancerous cells, this study investigated metabolic changes for early detection and screening for lung cancer.

For this study, 357 patients with lung cancer and 347 healthy persons (control group) were recruited. The study collected fasting venous blood from each participant.

Increased levels of several metabolites were identified in the cancer patients relative to the healthy controls, including glucose, N-acetylated glycoproteins, β-hydroxybutyrate, leucine, lysine, tyrosine, threonine, glutamine, valine, and aspartate, and decreased levels of alanine, lactate, sphingomyelin, phosphatidylcholine, citrate, and other phospholipids.

The metabolic variances observed allowed the model to classify 78% of the lung cancer patients and 92% of the controls correctly. The model had a sensitivity of 71% and a specificity of 81%; however, it could not discriminate between histologic subtypes and tumor stages.

"This paper validates H-NMR metabolic phenotyping of blood plasma as a complementary tool to discriminate between lung cancer patients and controls,” stated the authors. “Our findings indicate that while metabolic alterations can be detected at an early stage, our intent is not to use the metabolome as a separate screening tool but to complement current risk models with additional parameters to better select high-risk individuals eligible for LDCT screening."


1. Louis E, Adriaensens P, Guedens W, et al. Detection of lung cancer through metabolic changes measured in blood plasma [published online ahead of print February 29, 2016]. J Thor Onc. doi:10.1016/j.jtho.2016.01.011.

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