Background: Currently, there are no FDA approved screening tools for detecting early stage ovarian cancer in the general population. Development of a biomarker-based assay for early detection would significantly improve the survival of ovarian cancer patients. Methods: We used a multiplex approach to identify protein biomarkers for detecting early stage ovarian cancer. This new technology (Proseek® Multiplex Oncology Plates) can simultaneously measure the expression of 92 proteins in serum based on a proximity extension assay. We analyzed serum samples from 81 women representing healthy, benign pathology, early, and advanced stage serous ovarian cancer patients. Results: Principle component analysis and unsupervised hierarchical clustering separated patients into cancer versus non-cancer subgroups. Data from the Proseek® plate for CA125 levels exhibited a strong correlation with current clinical assays for CA125 (correlation coefficient of 0.89, 95% CI 0.83, 0.93). CA125 and HE4 were present at very low levels in healthy controls and benign cases, while higher levels were found in early stage cases, with highest levels found in the advanced stage cases. Overall, significant trends were observed for 38 of the 92 proteins (p < 0.001), many of which are novel candidate serum biomarkers for ovarian cancer. The area under the ROC curve (AUC) for CA125 was 0.98 and the AUC for HE4 was 0.85 when comparing early stage ovarian cancer versus healthy controls. In total, 23 proteins had an estimated AUC of 0.7 or greater. Using a naïve Bayes classifier that combined 12 proteins, we improved the sensitivity corresponding to 95% specificity from 93 to 95% when compared to CA125 alone. Although small, a 2% increase would have a significant effect on the number of women correctly identified when screening a large population. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that the Proseek® technology can replicate the results established by conventional clinical assays for known biomarkers, identify new candidate biomarkers, and improve the sensitivity and specificity of CA125 alone. Additional studies using a larger cohort of patients will allow for validation of these biomarkers and lead to the development of a screening tool for detecting early stage ovarian cancer in the general population.
- Ovarian cancer
- Proximity extension assay