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Cancer Biomarkers in Blood: Sensitivity or Specificity?

Cancer is mostly incurable when diagnosed at a metastatic stage, making its early detection via blood proteins of immense clinical interest. Proteomic changes in tumor tissue may lead to changes detectable in the protein composition of circulating blood plasma. Using a proteomic workflow combining N-glycosite enrichment and SWATH mass spectrometry, we generate a data resource of 284 blood samples derived from patients with different types of localized-stage carcinomas and from matched controls. We observe whether the changes in the patient’s plasma are specific to a particular carcinoma or represent a generic signature of proteins modified uniformly in a common, systemic response to many cancers. A quantitative comparison of the resulting N-glycosite profiles discovers that proteins related to blood platelets are common to several cancers (e.g., THBS1), whereas others are highly cancer-type specific. Available proteomics data, including a SWATH library to study N-glycoproteins, will facilitate follow-up biomarker research into early cancer detection.

We had a deep discussion and observation about sensitivity and specificity on cancer biomarkers: although the current machine learning predictions often favor markers of higher sensitivity, specific biomarkers maybe more desirable even if they are less sensitive.

Please see a recent paper at Cell Reports :

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