Non-invasive detection of glycine as a biomarker of malignancy in childhood brain tumours using in-vivo 1H MRS at 1.5 tesla confirmed by ex-vivo high-resolution magic-angle spinning NMR

NMR Biomed. 2010 Jan;23(1):80-7. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1432.


Management of brain tumours in children would benefit from improved non-invasive diagnosis, characterisation and prognostic biomarkers. Metabolite profiles derived from in-vivo MRS have been shown to provide such information. Studies indicate that using optimum a priori information on metabolite contents in the construction of linear combination (LC) models of MR spectra leads to improved metabolite profile estimation. Glycine (Gly) is usually neglected in such models due to strong overlap with myo-inositol (mI) and a low concentration in normal brain. However, biological studies indicate that Gly is abundant in high-grade brain tumours. This study aimed to investigate the quantitation of Gly in paediatric brain tumours using MRS analysed by LCModel, and its potential as a non-invasive biomarker of malignancy. Single-voxel MRS was performed using PRESS (TR 1500 ms, TE 30 ms/135 ms) on a 1.5 T scanner. Forty-seven cases (18 high grade (HG), 17 low grade (LG), 12 ungraded) were retrospectively selected if both short-TE and long-TE MRS (n = 33) or short-TE MRS and high-resolution magic-angle spinning (HRMAS) of matched surgical samples (n = 15) were available. The inclusion of Gly in LCModel analyses led to significantly reduced fit residues for both short-TE and long-TE MRS (p < 0.05). The Gly concentrations estimated from short-TE MRS were significantly correlated with the long-TE values (R = 0.91, p < 0.001). The Gly concentration estimated by LCModel was significantly higher in HG versus LG tumours for both short-TE (p < 1e-6) and long-TE (p = 0.003) MRS. This was consistent with the HRMAS results, which showed a significantly higher normalised Gly concentration in HG tumours (p < 0.05) and a significant correlation with the normalised Gly concentration measured from short-TE in-vivo MRS (p < 0.05). This study suggests that glycine can be reliably detected in paediatric brain tumours using in-vivo MRS on standard clinical scanners and that it is a promising biomarker of tumour aggressiveness.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Child
  • Glycine* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy* / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy* / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Rats


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Glycine