Recent advances and opportunities in proteomic analyses of tumour heterogeneity

Nicholas W. Bateman, Thomas P. Conrads*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Solid tumour malignancies comprise a highly variable admixture of tumour and non-tumour cellular populations, forming a complex cellular ecosystem and tumour microenvironment. This tumour heterogeneity is not incidental, and is known to correlate with poor patient prognosis for many cancer types. Indeed, non-malignant cell populations, such as vascular endothelial and immune cells, are known to play key roles supporting and, in some cases, driving aggressive tumour biology, and represent targets of emerging therapeutics, such as antiangiogenesis and immune checkpoint inhibitors. The biochemical interplay between these cellular populations and how they contribute to molecular tumour heterogeneity remains enigmatic, particularly from the perspective of the tumour proteome. This review focuses on recent advances in proteomic methods, namely imaging mass spectrometry, single-cell proteomic techniques, and preanalytical sample processing, that are uniquely positioned to enable detailed analysis of discrete cellular populations within tumours to improve our understanding of tumour proteomic heterogeneity. This review further emphasizes the opportunity afforded by the application of these techniques to the analysis of tumour heterogeneity in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded archival tumour tissues, as these represent an invaluable resource for retrospective analyses that is now routinely accessible, owing to recent technological and methodological advances in tumour tissue proteomics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-637
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • mass spectrometry
  • microenvironment
  • proteomics
  • tissue
  • tumour


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