J Cancer 2020; 11(13):3944-3954. doi:10.7150/jca.41733

Research Paper

Untargeted Metabolomics Analysis of Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Discovers Dysregulated Metabolic Pathways and Potential Diagnostic Biomarkers

Zi-Jia Zhu1,2,*, Zheng Qi3,*, Ji Zhang1,2, Wen-Hua Xue1,2, Li-Feng Li4, Zhi-Bo Shen4, Ze-Yun Li1,2, Yong-Liang Yuan1,2, Wen-Bin Wang1,2, Jie Zhao1,5✉

1. Department of Pharmacy, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450052, China
2. Henan Key Laboratory of Precision Clinical Pharmacy, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450052, China
3. Department of Anesthesiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450052, China
4. Cancer Center, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, Henan, 450052, China.
5. Engineering Laboratory for Digital Telemedicine Service, Zhengzhou, Henan, 450052, China.
* These authors have contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). See http://ivyspring.com/terms for full terms and conditions.
Citation:
Zhu ZJ, Qi Z, Zhang J, Xue WH, Li LF, Shen ZB, Li ZY, Yuan YL, Wang WB, Zhao J. Untargeted Metabolomics Analysis of Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Discovers Dysregulated Metabolic Pathways and Potential Diagnostic Biomarkers. J Cancer 2020; 11(13):3944-3954. doi:10.7150/jca.41733. Available from https://www.jcancer.org/v11p3944.htm

File import instruction

Abstract

Background: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is one of the most fatal diseases worldwide. Because early diagnosis is difficult, ESCC is mostly diagnosed at an advanced stage, leading to a poor overall prognosis. The purpose of this study was to explore the differences between plasma metabolic profiles in ESCC patients and healthy controls and to establish a diagnostic model of ESCC.

Methods: In this study, a cohort of 310 subjects, containing 140 ESCC patients and 170 healthy controls (HC), was recruited. Participants were randomly separated into a training set (80 ESCCs, 80 HCs) and a validation set (60 ESCCs, 90 HCs) and their plasma metabolomics profiles were analyzed by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem quadruple time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-QTOF/MS) technique. Univariate statistical analysis and multivariate analysis (MVA) methods were used to identify differential metabolites. Finally, the dysregulated pathways associated with ESCC were further explored and the diagnostic performance of the biomarker panel was evaluated.

Results: Metabolic analyses identified 34 significant metabolites involved in the metabolism of amino acids, phospholipids, fatty acids, purine, and choline. Farthermore, an effective diagnostic model for ESCC was constructed based on eight metabolites. This panel of biomarkers consisted of hypoxanthine, proline betaine, indoleacrylic acid, inosine, 9-decenoylcarnitine, tetracosahexaenoic acid, LPE (20:4), and LPC (20:5). The model was verified and evaluated in the validation set. The AUC value of the ROC curve was 0.991(95% CI: 0.981-1.000, CI, Confidence interval), with a sensitivity (SE) of 98.8% and a specificity (SP) of 94.9% for the training set and 0.965(95% CI: 0.936-0.993), with a SE of 88.3% and a SP of 88.9% for the validation set. Among them, three biomarkers, indoleacrylic acid, LPC (20:5), and LPE (20:4), exhibited a trend associated with the ESCC progression.

Conclusions: Our study identified a novel plasma biomarker panel, which clearly distinguishes ESCC patients and provides insight into the mechanisms of ESCC. This finding may form the basis for the development of a minimally invasive method for ESCC detection.

Keywords: metabolomics, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, diagnostic model, mass spectrometry, plasma biomarkers