Metabolomic identification of diagnostic serum-based biomarkers for advanced stage melanoma

Metabolomics. 2018 Aug 3;14(8):105. doi: 10.1007/s11306-018-1398-9.


Introduction: Melanoma is a highly aggressive malignancy and is currently one of the fastest growing cancers worldwide. While early stage (I and II) disease is highly curable with excellent prognosis, mortality rates rise dramatically after distant spread. We sought to identify differences in the metabolome of melanoma patients to further elucidate the pathophysiology of melanoma and identify potential biomarkers to aid in earlier detection of recurrence.

Methods: Using 1H NMR and DI-LC-MS/MS, we profiled serum samples from 26 patients with stage III (nodal metastasis) or stage IV (distant metastasis) melanoma and compared their biochemical profiles with 46 age- and gender-matched controls.

Results: We accurately quantified 181 metabolites in serum using a combination of 1H NMR and DI-LC-MS/MS. We observed significant separation between cases and controls in the PLS-DA scores plot (permutation test p-value = 0.002). Using the concentrations of PC-aa-C40:3, DL-carnitine, octanoyl-L-carnitine, ethanol, and methylmalonyl-L-carnitine we developed a diagnostic algorithm with an AUC (95% CI) = 0.822 (0.665-0.979) with sensitivity and specificity of 100 and 56%, respectively. Furthermore, we identified arginine, proline, tryptophan, glutamine, glutamate, glutathione and ornithine metabolism to be significantly perturbed due to disease (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Targeted metabolomic analysis demonstrated significant differences in metabolic profiles of advanced stage (III and IV) melanoma patients as compared to controls. These differences may represent a potential avenue for the development of multi-marker serum-based assays for earlier detection of recurrences, allow for newer, more effective targeted therapy when tumor burden is less, and further elucidate the pathophysiologic changes that occur in melanoma.

Keywords: Amino acids; Melanoma; Metabolomics; Serum biomarkers.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Metabolome*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • ROC Curve
  • Serum / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Biomarkers, Tumor