MALDI TOF imaging mass spectrometry in clinical pathology: a valuable tool for cancer diagnostics (review)

Int J Oncol. 2015 Mar;46(3):893-906. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2788. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) time-of-flight (TOF) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) is an evolving technique in cancer diagnostics and combines the advantages of mass spectrometry (proteomics), detection of numerous molecules, and spatial resolution in histological tissue sections and cytological preparations. This method allows the detection of proteins, peptides, lipids, carbohydrates or glycoconjugates and small molecules.Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue can also be investigated by IMS, thus, this method seems to be an ideal tool for cancer diagnostics and biomarker discovery. It may add information to the identification of tumor margins and tumor heterogeneity. The technique allows tumor typing, especially identification of the tumor of origin in metastatic tissue, as well as grading and may provide prognostic information. IMS is a valuable method for the identification of biomarkers and can complement histology, immunohistology and molecular pathology in various fields of histopathological diagnostics, especially with regard to identification and grading of tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Freezing
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Pathology, Clinical / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods*
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Tissue Fixation / methods


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Proteins