High-resolution serum proteomic features for ovarian cancer detection

T. P. Conrads, V. A. Fusaro, S. Ross, D. Johann, V. Rajapakse, B. A. Hitt, S. M. Steinberg, E. C. Kohn, D. A. Fishman, G. Whiteley, J. C. Barrett, L. A. Liotta, E. F. Petricoin, T. D. Veenstra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

220 Scopus citations


Serum proteomic pattern diagnostics is an emerging paradigm employing low-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) to generate a set of biomarker classifiers. In the present study, we utilized a well-controlled ovarian cancer serum study set to compare the sensitivity and specificity of serum proteomic diagnostic patterns acquired using a high-resolution versus a low-resolution MS platform. In blinded testing sets, the high-resolution mass spectral data contained multiple diagnostic signatures that were superior to the low-resolution spectra in terms of sensitivity and specificity (P < 0.00001) throughout the range of modeling conditions. Four mass spectral feature set patterns acquired from data obtained exclusively with the high-resolution mass spectrometer were 100% specific and sensitive in their diagnosis of serum samples as being acquired from either unaffected patients or those suffering from ovarian cancer. Important to the future of proteomic pattern diagnostics is the ability to recognize inferior spectra statistically, so that those resulting from a specific process error are recognized prior to their potentially incorrect (and damaging) diagnosis. To meet this need, we have developed a series of quality-assurance and in-process control procedures to (a) globally evaluate sources of sample variability, (b) identify outlying mass spectra, and (c) develop quality-control release specifications. From these quality-assurance and control (QA/QC) specifications, we identified 32 mass spectra out of the total 248 that showed statistically significant differences from the norm. Hence, 216 of the initial 248 high-resolution mass spectra were determined to be of high quality and were remodeled by pattern-recognition analysis. Again, we obtained four mass spectral feature set patterns that also exhibited 100% sensitivity and specificity in blinded validation tests (68/68 cancer: including 18/18 stage I, and 43/43 healthy). We conclude that (a) the use of high-resolution MS yields superior classification patterns as compared with those obtained with lower resolution instrumentation; (b) although the process error that we discovered did not have a deleterious impact on the present results obtained from proteomic pattern analysis, the major source of spectral variability emanated from mass spectral acquisition, and not bias at the clinical collection site; (c) this variability can be reduced and monitored through the use of QA/QC statistical procedures; (d) multiple and distinct proteomic patterns, comprising low molecular weight biomarkers, detected by high-resolution MS achieve accuracies surpassing individual biomarkers, warranting validation in a large clinical study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
Number of pages16
JournalEndocrine-Related Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


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