• MALDI imaging;
  • prostate cancer;
  • tissue microarray;
  • ERG;
  • formalin-fixed tissue;
  • Ki67;
  • prognosis;
  • antigen retrieval

To identify molecular features associated with clinico-pathological parameters and TMPRSS2-ERG fusion status in prostate cancer, we employed MALDI mass spectrometric imaging (MSI) to a prostate cancer tissue microarray (TMA) containing formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues samples from 1,044 patients for which clinical follow-up data were available. MSI analysis revealed 15 distinct mass per charge (m/z)-signals associated to epithelial structures. A comparison of these signals with clinico-pathological features revealed statistical association with favorable tumor phenotype such as low Gleason grade, early pT stage or low Ki67 labeling Index (LI) for four signals (m/z 700, m/z 1,502, m/z 1,199 and m/z 3,577), a link between high Ki67LI for one signal (m/z 1,013) and a relationship with prolonged time to PSA recurrence for one signal (m/z 1,502; p = 0.0145). Multiple signals were associated with the ERG-fusion status of our cancers. Two of 15 epithelium-associated signals including m/z 1,013 and m/z 1,502 were associated with detectable ERG expression and five signals (m/z 644, 678, 1,044, 3,086 and 3,577) were associated with ERG negativity. These observations are in line with substantial molecular differences between fusion-type and non-fusion type prostate cancer. The signals observed in this study may characterize molecules that play a role in the development of TMPRSS2-ERG fusions, or alternatively reflect pathways that are activated as a consequence of ERG-activation. The combination of MSI and large-scale TMAs reflects a powerful approach enabling immediate prioritization of MSI signals based on associations with clinico-pathological and molecular data.