Fibrosis and cancer are characterized by extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. The basement membrane is mainly composed by collagen type IV and laminin. Tumstatin is a matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) generated matrikine of collagen type IV α3 chain. We evaluated the potential of tumstatin as a diagnostic biomarker of lung disorders.

A monoclonal antibody was raised against the neo-epitope tumstatin. A novel competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for detection of tumstatin (TUM), was developed and technically characterized. Levels of TUM were measured in serum of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) belonging to two cohorts.

The developed TUM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was technically robust. In cohort 1, levels of TUM were significantly higher in NSCLC compared to healthy controls, IPF, and COPD (P = 0.007, P = 0.03 and P = 0.001, respectively). The area under the receiver operating characteristics (AUROC) for separation of patients with NSCLC from healthy controls was 0.97, for separation of NSCLC and IPF patients was 0.98, and for separation of NSCLC and COPD patients was 1.0. In cohort 2, levels of TUM were also significantly higher in patients with NSCLC compared to healthy controls (P = 0.002), and the AUROC for separation of NSCLC and healthy controls was 0.73.

We developed a technically robust competitive ELISA targeting the fragment tumstatin. The level of TUM in circulation was significantly higher in patients with NSCLC compared to patients with IPF, COPD and healthy controls. The assay provided high diagnostic accuracy in separating NSCLC patients from other lung disorders and from healthy controls.