Issue 1, 2015

Zinc isotopic compositions of breast cancer tissue


An early diagnostic biomarker for breast cancer is essential to improve outcome. High precision isotopic analysis, originating in Earth sciences, can detect very small shifts in metal pathways. For the first time, the natural intrinsic Zn isotopic compositions of various tissues in breast cancer patients and controls were determined. Breast cancer tumours were found to have a significantly lighter Zn isotopic composition than the blood, serum and healthy breast tissue in both groups. The Zn isotopic lightness in tumours suggests that sulphur rich metallothionein dominates the isotopic selectivity of a breast tissue cell, rather than Zn-specific proteins. This reveals a possible mechanism of Zn delivery to Zn-sequestering vesicles by metallothionein, and is supported by a similar signature observed in the copper isotopic compositions of one breast cancer patient. This change in intrinsic isotopic compositions due to cancer has the potential to provide a novel early biomarker for breast cancer.

Graphical abstract: Zinc isotopic compositions of breast cancer tissue

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
03 Oct 2014
01 Dec 2014
First published
01 Dec 2014
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY-NC license

Metallomics, 2015,7, 112-117

Author version available