Purpose: Better breast cancer prognostication may improve selection of patients for adjuvant therapy. We conducted a retrospective longitudinal study in which we investigated sera of high-risk primary breast cancer patients, to search for proteins predictive of recurrence-free survival. Methods: Sera of 82 breast cancer patients obtained after surgery, but prior to the administration of adjuvant therapy, were fractionated using anion-exchange chromatography, to facilitate the detection of the low-abundant serum peptides. Selected fractions were subsequently analysed by surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF MS), and the resulting protein profiles were searched for prognostic markers by appropriate bioinformatics tools. Results: Four peak clusters (i.e. m/z 3073, m/z 3274, m/z 4405 and m/z 7973) were found to bear significant prognostic value (P ≤ 0.01). The m/z 3274 candidate marker was structurally identified as inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain 4 fragment658-688in serum. Except for the m/z 7973 peak cluster, these peaks remained independently associated with recurrence-free survival upon multivariate Cox regression analysis, including clinical parameters of known prognostic value in this study population. Conclusion: Investigation of the postoperative serum proteome by, e.g., anion-exchange fractionation followed by SELDI-TOF MS analysis is promising for the detection of novel prognostic factors. However, regarding the rather limited study population, validation of these results by analysis of independent study populations is warranted to assess the true clinical applicability of discovered prognostic markers. In addition, structural identification of the other markers will aid in elucidation of their role in breast cancer prognosis, as well as enable development of absolute quantitative assays.

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Keywords Anion-exchange fractionation, Breast cancer, Prognostic markers, Recurrence-free survival, SELDI-TOF MS, Serum
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00432-011-1055-4, hdl.handle.net/1765/33584
Citation
Gast, M.C.W., Zapatka, M., van Tinteren, H., Bontenbal, M., Span, P.N., Tjan-Heijnen, V.C.G., … Beijnen, J.H.. (2011). Postoperative serum proteomic profiles may predict recurrence-free survival in high-risk primary breast cancer. Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology, 137(12), 1773–1783. doi:10.1007/s00432-011-1055-4