PloS one

Identification of multiple novel protein biomarkers shed by human serous ovarian tumors into the blood of immunocompromised mice and verified in patient sera.

PMID 23544127


The most cancer-specific biomarkers in blood are likely to be proteins shed directly by the tumor rather than less specific inflammatory or other host responses. The use of xenograft mouse models together with in-depth proteome analysis for identification of human proteins in the mouse blood is an under-utilized strategy that can clearly identify proteins shed by the tumor. In the current study, 268 human proteins shed into mouse blood from human OVCAR-3 serous tumors were identified based upon human vs. mouse species differences using a four-dimensional plasma proteome fractionation strategy. A multi-step prioritization and verification strategy was subsequently developed to efficiently select some of the most promising biomarkers from this large number of candidates. A key step was parallel analysis of human proteins detected in the tumor supernatant, because substantially greater sequence coverage for many of the human proteins initially detected in the xenograft mouse plasma confirmed assignments as tumor-derived human proteins. Verification of candidate biomarkers in patient sera was facilitated by in-depth, label-free quantitative comparisons of serum pools from patients with ovarian cancer and benign ovarian tumors. The only proteins that advanced to multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) assay development were those that exhibited increases in ovarian cancer patients compared with benign tumor controls. MRM assays were facilely developed for all 11 novel biomarker candidates selected by this process and analysis of larger pools of patient sera suggested that all 11 proteins are promising candidate biomarkers that should be further evaluated on individual patient blood samples.