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Disease Markers
Volume 23, Issue 5-6, Pages 411-417

Proteomics as a Tool for Biomarker Discovery

Elise C. Kohn,1,2 Nilofer Azad,1,2 Christina Annunziata,2 Amit S. Dhamoon,1 and Gordon Whiteley1

1Laboratory of Pathology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
2Medical Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

Received 9 November 2007; Accepted 9 November 2007

Copyright © 2007 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Novel technologies are now being advanced for the purpose of identification and validation of new disease biomarkers. A reliable and useful clinical biomarker must a) come from a readily attainable source, such as blood or urine, b) have sufficient sensitivity to correctly identify affected individuals, c) have sufficient specificity to avoid incorrect labeling of unaffected persons, and d) result in a notable benefit for the patient through intervention, such as survival or life quality improvement. Despite these critical descriptors, the few available FDA-approved biomarkers for cancer do not completely fit this definition and their benefits are limited to a small number of cancers. Ovarian cancer exemplifies the need for a diagnostic biomarker of early stage disease. Symptoms are present but not specific to the disease, delaying diagnosis until an advanced and generally incurable stage in over 70% of affected women. As such, diagnostic intervention in the form of oopherectomy can be performed in the appropriate at-risk population if identified such as with a new accurate, sensitive, and specific biomarker. If early stage disease is identified, the requirement for survival and life quality improvement will be met. One of the new technologies applied to biomarker discovery is tour-de-force analysis of serum peptides and proteins. Optimization of mass spectrometry techniques coupled with advanced bioinformatics approaches has yielded informative biomarker signatures discriminating presence of cancer from unaffected in multiple studies from different groups. Validation and randomized outcome studies are needed to determine the true value of these new biomarkers in early diagnosis, and improved survival and quality of life.