Tumor ratio of unsaturated to saturated sulfatide species is associated with disease-free survival in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma

L. Huizing, L. Chen, A.A. Roeth, L.R. Heij, B. Flinders, S.A.W. Bouwense, B. Balluff, U.P. Neumann, R.M.A. Heeren, S.W.M.O. Damink, R.J. Vreeken, F.G. Schaap*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a malignancy arising from the bile duct epithelium and has a poor outcome. Sulfatides are lipid components of lipid rafts, and are implicated in several cancer types. In the liver, sulfatides are specifically present in the bile ducts. Here, sulfatide abundance and composition were analyzed using mass spectrometry imaging in intrahepatic CCA (iCCA) tumor tissue, and correlated with tumor biology and clinical outcomes.Methods Sulfatides were analyzed in iCCA (n = 17), hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, n = 10) and colorectal liver metastasis (CRLM, n = 10) tumor samples, as well as tumor-distal samples (control, n = 16) using mass spectrometry imaging. Levels of sulfatides as well as the relative amount in structural classes were compared between groups, and were correlated with clinical outcomes for iCCA patients.Results Sulfatide localization was limited to the respective tumor areas and the bile ducts. Sulfatide abundance was similar in iCCA and control tissue, while intensities were notably higher in CRLM in comparison with control (18-fold, P < 0.05) and HCC tissue (47-fold, P < 0.001). Considerable variation in sulfatide abundance was observed in iCCA tumors. A high ratio of unsaturated to saturated sulfatides was associated with reduced disease-free survival (10 vs. 20 months) in iCCA. The sulfatide pattern in HCC deviated from the other groups, with a higher relative abundance of odd- versus even-chain sulfatides.Conclusion Sulfatides were found in tumor tissue of patients with iCCA, with sulfatide abundance per pixel being similar to bile ducts. In this explorative study, sulfatide abundance was not related to overall survival of iCCA patients. A high ratio of unsaturated to saturated sulfatides was associated with earlier tumor recurrence in patients with iCCA.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCellular oncology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2023


  • Mass spectrometry imaging
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Colorectal liver metastasis
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Disease-free survival

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