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Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) could be used to aid the characterization of breast cancer cells.
Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) could be used to aid the characterization of breast cancer cells according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.1 The study authors report that the levels of 13 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the headspace above breast cancer cell lines varied in vitro and were indicative of different disease markers including stage of development, receptor expression, and doubling time.1
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Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in women worldwide and early detection is essential to effective treatment. Targeted personalized treatment depends on identifying a number of factors such as the upregulation of receptors, and requires a number of techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). An alternative approach is to use breath analysis using GC–MS - a noninvasive screening method for detecting a range of diseases including cancer - but marker compounds are usually present at very low levels and can be masked
by other compounds in the breath. Eugenio Martinelli, University of Rome Tor Vergata, told The Column: “This study had two main purposes. The first one is the characterization of VOCs as diagnostic tumour markers. The second one is the set-up of new technology based on a chemical sensor optimized for detection and analysis of VOCs associated with tumour cancer cells.”
The study, in addition to a temperature modulated metal oxide gas sensor measurement, performed GC–MS on samples taken from the headspace of six breast cancer cell lines in vitro to identify 13 VOCs that could be used to discriminate between cell lines by cell doubling time, transformed condition, estrogen and progesterone receptor expression, and HER2 overexpression. Martinelli said: “Our results demonstrated that VOCs could give information regarding the expression of breast tumour markers that have [a] high impact in the clinical management of breast cancer patients; currently the analysis of these markers is expensive and time consuming.”
The team are going to be working on improving the method and testing it with more breast cancer cell lines and biological samples from patients. He said: “Moreover we will characterize the metabolic pathways involved in the production of the breast cancer cell-associated VOCs identified by GC–MS. This could give relevant information either concerning the use of VOCs as tumour markers or regarding new molecular modifications implicated in breast cancer progression.” - B.D.
L. Lavra et al., Scientific Reports5(13246), DOI: 10.1038/srep13246 (2015).