Combined Metabolomic Analysis of Plasma and Tissue Reveals a Prognostic Risk Score System and Metabolic Dysregulation in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Zhongjian Chen, Yalan Dai, Xiancong Huang, Keke Chen, Yun Gao, Na Li, Ding Wang, Aiping Chen, Qingxia Yang, Yanjun HONG, Su Zeng*, Weimin Mao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a gastrointestinal malignancy with a poor prognosis. Although studies have shown metabolic reprogramming to be linked to ESCC development, no prognostic metabolic biomarkers or potential therapeutic metabolic targets have been identified. Method: The present study investigated some circulating metabolites associated with overall survival in 276 curatively resected ESCC patients using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry metabolomics and Kaplan-Meier analysis. Tissue metabolomic analysis of 23-paired ESCC tissue samples was performed to discover metabolic dysregulation in ESCC cancerous tissue. A method consisting of support vector machine recursive feature elimination and LIMMA differential expression analysis was utilized to select promising feature genes within transcriptomic data from 179-paired ESCC tissue samples. Joint pathway analysis with genes and metabolites identified relevant metabolic pathways and targets for ESCC. Results: Four metabolites, kynurenine, 1-myristoyl-glycero-3-phosphocholine (LPC(14:0)sn-1), 2-piperidinone, and hippuric acid, were identified as prognostic factors in the preoperative plasma from ESCC patients. A risk score consisting of kynurenine and LPC(14:0)sn-1 significantly improved the prognostic performance of the tumor-node-metastasis staging system and was able to stratify risk for ESCC. Combined tissue metabolomic analysis and support vector machine recursive feature elimination gene selection revealed dysregulated kynurenine pathway as an important metabolic feature of ESCC, including accumulation of tryptophan, formylkynurenine, and kynurenine, as well as up-regulated indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 in ESCC cancerous tissue. Conclusions: This work identified for the first time four potential prognostic circulating metabolites. In addition, kynurenine pathway metabolism was shown to be up-regulated tryptophan-kynurenine metabolism in ESCC. Results not only provide a metabolite-based risk score system for prognosis, but also improve the understanding of the molecular basis of ESCC onset and progression, and as well as novel potential therapeutic targets for ESCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1545
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

User-Defined Keywords

  • 3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1)
  • artificial intelligence
  • diagnosis
  • esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC)
  • indoleamine 2
  • metabolomics
  • prognosis
  • risk score


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