Plasma secretory phospholipase A2-IIa as a potential biomarker for lung cancer in patients with solitary pulmonary nodules

BMC Cancer. 2011 Dec 9:11:513. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-11-513.


Background: Five-year survival for lung cancer has remained at 16% over last several decades largely due to the fact that over 50% of patients are diagnosed with locally-advanced or metastatic disease. Diagnosis at an earlier and potentially curable stage is crucial. Solitary pulmonary nodules (SPNs) are common, but the difficulty lies in the determination of which SPN is malignant. Currently, there is no convenient and reliable biomarker effective for early diagnosis. Secretory phospholipase A2-IIa (sPLA2-IIa) is secreted into the circulation by cancer cells and may allow for an early detection of lung cancer.

Methods: Plasma samples from healthy donors, patients with only benign SPN, and patients with lung cancer were analyzed. Expression of sPLA2-IIa protein in lung cancer tissues was also determined.

Results: We found that the levels of plasma sPLA2-IIa were significantly elevated in lung cancer patients. The receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, comparing lung cancer patients to patients with benign nodules, revealed an optimum cutoff value for plasma sPLA2-IIa of 2.4 ng/ml to predict an early stage cancer with 48% sensitivity and 86% specificity and up to 67% sensitivity for T2 stage lung cancer. Combined sPLA2-IIa, CEA, and Cyfra21.1 tests increased the sensitivity for lung cancer prediction. High level of plasma sPLA2-IIa was associated with a decreased overall cancer survival. sPLA2-IIa was overexpressed in almost all non-small cell lung cancer and in the majority of small cell lung cancer by immunohistochemistry analysis.

Conclusion: Our finding strongly suggests that plasma sPLA2-IIa is a potential lung biomarker to distinguish benign nodules from lung cancer and to aid lung cancer diagnosis in patients with SPNs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Group II Phospholipases A2 / blood*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / diagnosis
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / enzymology*
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / mortality
  • Survival Analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Group II Phospholipases A2