"We do not have any available blood markers for breast cancer," said proteomics expert Joshua LaBaer from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University
"Our hope is to combine a new type of blood test with mammography screening to aid in the early detection of breast cancer," said LaBaer.
To develop the new biomarkers, LaBaer's team explored the intersection between cancer and our bodies' primary defense mechanism against invaders, the immune system.
The challenge faced by researchers is to determine which antibodies among millions are specific for breast cancer. To accomplish this, the team used a novel protein microarray technology, called Nucleic Acid Protein Programmable Array.
Protein microarrays display thousands of different candidate proteins lined up in rows and columns on a single microscopic slide. A tiny drop of blood was added to the microarray to look for proteins that are recognized by the antibodies from the cancer patients but not from the healthy women.
Three phases of screens were performed, using increasingly rigorous statistical selection standards that narrowed down the number of potential biomarkers candidates from 5,000 to 761, which showed any measurable difference between healthy and disease populations, to 119, which showed a clear statistical difference.
Finally, these were then tested in a blinded study to find the final 28 biomarkers. The group not only looked at how each individual biomarker fared during the screening, but also how the entire panel of biomarkers worked together.
Their findings appear in the American Chemistry Society's Journal of Proteome Research. (ANI)