Distinct nitrogen isotopic compositions of healthy and cancerous tissue in mice brain and head&neck micro-biopsies

M. Straub, D. M. Sigman, A. Auderset, J. Ollivier, B. Petit, B. Hinnenberg, F. Rubach, S. Oleynik, M. C. Vozenin, A. Martínez-García

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Cancerous cells can recycle metabolic ammonium for their growth. As this ammonium has a low nitrogen isotope ratio (15N/14N), its recycling may cause cancer tissue to have lower 15N/14N than surrounding healthy tissue. We investigated whether, within a given tissue type in individual mice, tumoral and healthy tissues could be distinguished based on their 15N/14N. Methods: Micro-biopsies of murine tumors and adjacent tissues were analyzed for 15N/14N using novel high-sensitivity methods. Isotopic analysis was pursued in Nude and C57BL/6 mice models with mature orthotopic brain and head&neck tumors generated by implantation of H454 and MEERL95 murine cells, respectively. Results: In the 7 mice analyzed, the brain tumors had distinctly lower 15N/14N than healthy neural tissue. In the 5 mice with head&neck tumors, the difference was smaller and more variable. This was at least partly due to infiltration of healthy head&neck tissue by tumor cells. However, it may also indicate that the 15N/14N difference between tumoral and healthy tissue depends on the nitrogen metabolism of the healthy organ in question. Conclusions: The findings, coupled with the high sensitivity of the 15N/14N measurement method used here, suggest a new approach for micro-biopsy-based diagnosis of malignancy as well as an avenue for investigation of cancer metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number805
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


  • Cell metabolism
  • Diagnostics
  • Micro-biopsies
  • Nitrogen isotopes


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