Mass spectrometry-based analysis of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded distal cholangiocarcinoma identifies stromal thrombospondin-2 as a potential prognostic marker

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Background: Distal cholangiocarcinoma is an aggressive malignancy with a dismal prognosis. Diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for distal cholangiocarcinoma are lacking. The aim of the present study was to identify differentially expressed proteins between distal cholangiocarcinoma and normal bile duct samples. Methods: A workflow utilizing discovery mass spectrometry and verification by parallel reaction monitoring was used to analyze surgically resected formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded samples from distal cholangiocarcinoma patients and normal bile duct samples. Bioinformatic analysis was used for functional annotation and pathway analysis. Immunohistochemistry was performed to validate the expression of thrombospondin-2 and investigate its association with survival. Results: In the discovery study, a total of 3057 proteins were identified. Eighty-seven proteins were found to be differentially expressed (q < 0.05 and fold change ≥ 2 or ≤ 0.5); 31 proteins were upregulated and 56 were downregulated in the distal cholangiocarcinoma samples compared to controls. Bioinformatic analysis revealed an abundance of differentially expressed proteins associated with the tumor reactive stroma. Parallel reaction monitoring verified 28 proteins as upregulated and 18 as downregulated in distal cholangiocarcinoma samples compared to controls. Immunohistochemical validation revealed thrombospondin-2 to be upregulated in distal cholangiocarcinoma epithelial and stromal compartments. In paired lymph node metastases samples, thrombospondin-2 expression was significantly lower; however, stromal thrombospondin-2 expression was still frequent (72%). Stromal thrombospondin-2 was an independent predictor of poor disease-free survival (HR 3.95, 95% CI 1.09-14.3; P = 0.037). Conclusion: Several proteins without prior association with distal cholangiocarcinoma biology were identified and verified as differentially expressed between distal cholangiocarcinoma and normal bile duct samples. These proteins can be further evaluated to elucidate their biomarker potential and role in distal cholangiocarcinoma carcinogenesis. Stromal thrombospondin-2 is a potential prognostic marker in distal cholangiocarcinoma.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Surgery


  • Biliary tract cancer, Biomarker, Distal cholangiocarcinoma, Mass spectrometry, Parallel reaction monitoring, Stroma, Thrombospondin-2
Original languageEnglish
Article number343
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch