Background: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a common form of cancer in children. Currently, bone marrow biopsy is used for diagnosis. Noninvasive biomarkers for the early diagnosis of pediatric ALL are urgently needed. The aim of this study was to discover potential protein biomarkers for pediatric ALL. Methods: Ninety-four pediatric ALL patients and 84 controls were randomly divided into a "training" set (45 ALL patients, 34 healthy controls) and a test set (49 ALL patients, 30 healthy controls and 30 pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients). Serum proteomic profiles were measured using surface-enhanced laser desorption/ ionization-time-of-flight mass spectroscopy (SELDI-TOF-MS). A classification model was established by Biomarker Pattern Software (BPS). Candidate protein biomarkers were purified by HPLC, identified by LC-MS/MS and validated using ProteinChip immunoassays. Results: A totalof 7 protein peaks (9290 m/z, 7769 m/z, 15110 m/z, 7564 m/z, 4469 m/z, 8937 m/z, 8137 m/z) were found with differential expression levels in the sera of pediatric ALL patients and controls using SELDI-TOF-MS and then analyzed by BPS to construct a classification model in the "training" set. The sensitivity and specificity of the model were found to be 91.8%, and 90.0%, respectively, in the test set. Two candidate protein peaks (7769 and 9290 m/z) were found to be down-regulated in ALL patients, where these were identified as platelet factor 4 (PF4) and pro-platelet basic protein precursor (PBP). Two other candidate protein peaks (8137 and 8937 m/z) were found up-regulated in the sera of ALL patients, and these were identified as fragments of the complement component 3a (C3a). Conclusion: Platelet factor (PF4), connective tissue activating peptide III (CTAP-III) and two fragments of C3a may be potential protein biomarkers of pediatric ALL and used to distinguish pediatric ALL patients from healthy controls and pediatric AML patients. Further studies with additional populations or using pre-diagnostic sera are needed to confirm the importance of these findings as diagnostic markers of pediatric ALL.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (973 program) under grant 2004CB720004 and the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China under grants 30570466, 306705587, and 30630033. The authors wish to thank Dr. Giovanna Tosato from the National Cancer Institute, NIH, USA, for her revisions of this manuscript and helpful suggestions.