MALDI Mass Spectrometry Imaging for the Distinction of Adenocarcinomas of the Pancreas and Biliary Tree

Bollwein, C., Gonalves, J. P. L., Utpatel, K., Weichert, W., and Schwamborn, K. (2022). Molecules 27. doi: 10.3390/molecules27113464


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma constitute two aggressive tumor types that originate from the epithelial lining of the excretory ducts of the pancreatobiliary tract. Given their close histomorphological resemblance, a correct diagnosis can be challenging and almost impossible without clinical information. In this study, we investigated whether mass spectrometric peptide features could be employed to distinguish pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma from cholangiocarcinoma. Three tissue microarrays of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded material (FFPE) comprising 41 cases of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and 41 cases of cholangiocarcinoma were analyzed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI). The derived peptide features and respective intensities were used to build different supervised classification algorithms: gradient boosting (GB), support vector machine (SVM), and k-nearest neighbors (KNN). On a pixel-by-pixel level, a classification accuracy of up to 95% could be achieved. The tentative identification of discriminative tryptic peptide signatures revealed proteins that are involved in the epigenetic regulation of the genome and tumor microenvironment. Despite their histomorphological similarities, mass spectrometry imaging represents an efficient and reliable approach for the distinction of PDAC from CC, offering a promising complementary or alternative approach to the existing tools used in diagnostics such as immunohistochemistry.