An unsupervised MVA method to compare specific regions in human breast tumor tissue samples using ToF-SIMS.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


The Analyst, Volume 141, Issue 6, p.1947-57 (2016)


Imaging time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and principal component analysis (PCA) were used to investigate two sets of pre- and post-chemotherapy human breast tumor tissue sections to characterize lipids associated with tumor metabolic flexibility and response to treatment. The micron spatial resolution imaging capability of ToF-SIMS provides a powerful approach to attain spatially-resolved molecular and cellular data from cancerous tissues not available with conventional imaging techniques. Three ca. 1 mm(2) areas per tissue section were analyzed by stitching together 200 μm × 200 μm raster area scans. A method to isolate and analyze specific tissue regions of interest by utilizing PCA of ToF-SIMS images is presented, which allowed separation of cellularized areas from stromal areas. These PCA-generated regions of interest were then used as masks to reconstruct representative spectra from specifically stromal or cellular regions. The advantage of this unsupervised selection method is a reduction in scatter in the spectral PCA results when compared to analyzing all tissue areas or analyzing areas highlighted by a pathologist. Utilizing this method, stromal and cellular regions of breast tissue biopsies taken pre- versus post-chemotherapy demonstrate chemical separation using negatively-charged ion species. In this sample set, the cellular regions were predominantly all cancer cells. Fatty acids (i.e. palmitic, oleic, and stearic), monoacylglycerols, diacylglycerols and vitamin E profiles were distinctively different between the pre- and post-therapy tissues. These results validate a new unsupervised method to isolate and interpret biochemically distinct regions in cancer tissues using imaging ToF-SIMS data. In addition, the method developed here can provide a framework to compare a variety of tissue samples using imaging ToF-SIMS, especially where there is section-to-section variability that makes it difficult to use a serial hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained section to direct the SIMS analysis.