Breast cancer accounts for the largest number of newly diagnosed cases in female cancer patients. Although mammography is a powerful screening tool, about 20% of breast cancer cases cannot be detected by this method. New diagnostic biomarkers for breast cancer are necessary. Here, we used a mass spectrometry-based quantitative metabolomics method to analyze plasma samples from 55 breast cancer patients and 25 healthy controls. A number of 30 patients and 20 age-matched healthy controls were used as a training dataset to establish a diagnostic model and to identify potential biomarkers. The remaining samples were used as a validation dataset to evaluate the predictive accuracy for the established model. Distinct separation was obtained from an orthogonal partial least squares-discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA) model with good prediction accuracy. Based on this analysis, 39 differentiating metabolites were identified, including significantly lower levels of lysophosphatidylcholines and higher levels of sphingomyelins in the plasma samples obtained from breast cancer patients compared with healthy controls. Using logical regression, a diagnostic equation based on three metabolites (lysoPC a C16:0, PC ae C42:5 and PC aa C34:2) successfully differentiated breast cancer patients from healthy controls, with a sensitivity of 98.1% and a specificity of 96.0%.
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