, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 373–378 | Cite as

An evaluation study of trace element content in colorectal liver metastases and surrounding normal livers by X-ray fluorescence

  • Kurinchi S. Gurusamy
  • Michael J. Farquharson
  • Claire Craig
  • Brian R. Davidson


Background Trace elements are involved in many key pathways involving cell cycle control. The levels of trace metals such as iron, copper, and zinc in colorectal liver metastases have not previously been assessed. Methods The trace element content in snap-frozen cancerous liver tissue from patients who underwent liver resection for colorectal liver metastases was compared with the normal surrounding liver (distant from the cancer) using X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Results X-ray fluorescence was performed on a total of 60 samples from 30 patients. Of these 29 matched pairs (of cancer and normal liver distant from cancer from the same patient) were eligible for univariate analysis. Iron (0.00598 vs. 0.02306), copper (0.00541 vs. 0.00786) and zinc (0.01790 vs. 0.04873) were statistically significantly lower in the cancer tissue than the normal liver. Iron, copper, and zinc were lower in the cancer tissue than in the normal liver in 24/29 (82.8%), 23/29 (79.3%), and 28/29 (96.6%) of cases respectively. Multivariate analysis of the 60 samples revealed that zinc was the only trace element decreased in the cancer tissue after adjusting for the other elements. Zinc levels were not affected by any of the histopathological variables. Conclusion Iron, copper, and zinc are lower in colorectal liver metastases than normal liver. An investigation into the pathways underlying these differences may provide a new understanding of cancer development and possible novel therapeutic targets.


Trace elements Iron Zinc Copper Metastasis Liver X-ray fluorescence spectrometry 



This work was performed on the EPSRC-funded XMaS beam line at the ESRF, directed by M. J. Cooper and C. A. Lucas. We are grateful to the beam line team of S. D. Brown, D. F. Paul, D. Mannix, L. Bouchenoire and P. Thompson for their invaluable assistance, and to S. Beaufoy and J. Kervin for additional support. Tissuomics Limited for part funding this study. Professor A. Dhillon for providing access and facilitating histopathology examination.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurinchi S. Gurusamy
    • 1
  • Michael J. Farquharson
    • 2
  • Claire Craig
    • 3
  • Brian R. Davidson
    • 1
  1. 1.HPB and Liver Transplant Surgery, University Department of SurgeryRoyal Free and University College School of Medicine, UCL and Royal Free Hospital NHS TrustLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of RadiographyCity UniversityLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of HistopathologyRoyal Free and University College School of Medicine, UCL and Royal Free Hospital NHS TrustLondonUK

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