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Chemical imaging of aggressive basal cell carcinoma using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry

Journal article
Authors Marwa Munem
Oscar Zaar
Kelly Dimovska Nilsson
N. Neittaanmaki
John Paoli
John S. Fletcher
Published in Biointerphases
Volume 13
Issue 3
ISSN 1934-8630
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Dermatology and Venereology
Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Language en
Keywords cancer, sims, identification, biology, brain, beams, Biophysics, Materials Science
Subject categories Biophysics


A set of basal cell carcinoma samples, removed by Mohs micrographic surgery and pathologically identified as having an aggressive subtype, have been analyzed using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS). The SIMS analysis employed a gas cluster ion beam (GCIB) to increase the sensitivity of the technique for the detection of intact lipid species. The GCIB also allowed these intact molecular signals to be maintained while surface contamination and delocalized chemicals were removed from the upper tissue surface. Distinct mass spectral signals were detected from different regions of the tissue (epidermis, dermis, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, scar tissue, and cancerous tissue) allowing mass spectral pathology to be performed. The cancerous regions of the tissue showed a particular increase in sphingomyelin signals that were detected in both positive and negative ion mode along with increased specific phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylinositol signals observed in negative ion mode. Samples containing mixed more and less aggressive tumor regions showed increased phosphatidylcholine lipid content in the less aggressive areas similar to a punch biopsy sample of a nonaggressive nodular lesion. (C) 2018 Author(s). All article content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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