Quantification of putative ovarian cancer serum protein biomarkers using a multiplexed targeted mass spectrometry assay

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Background: Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in women, and high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is the most common subtype. Currently, no clinical test has been approved by the FDA to screen the general population for ovarian cancer. This underscores the critical need for the development of a robust methodology combined with novel technology to detect diagnostic biomarkers for HGSOC in the sera of women. Targeted mass spectrometry (MS) can be used to identify and quantify specific peptides/proteins in complex biological samples with high accuracy, sensitivity, and reproducibility. In this study, we sought to develop and conduct analytical validation of a multiplexed Tier 2 targeted MS parallel reaction monitoring (PRM) assay for the relative quantification of 23 putative ovarian cancer protein biomarkers in sera. Methods: To develop a PRM method for our target peptides in sera, we followed nationally recognized consensus guidelines for validating fit-for-purpose Tier 2 targeted MS assays. The endogenous target peptide concentrations were calculated using the calibration curves in serum for each target peptide. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were analyzed to evaluate the diagnostic performance of the biomarker candidates. Results: We describe an effort to develop and analytically validate a multiplexed Tier 2 targeted PRM MS assay to quantify candidate ovarian cancer protein biomarkers in sera. Among the 64 peptides corresponding to 23 proteins in our PRM assay, 24 peptides corresponding to 16 proteins passed the assay validation acceptability criteria. A total of 6 of these peptides from insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 2 (IBP2), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and TIMP metalloproteinase inhibitor 1 (TIMP1) were quantified in sera from a cohort of 69 patients with early-stage HGSOC, late-stage HGSOC, benign ovarian conditions, and healthy (non-cancer) controls. Confirming the results from previously published studies using orthogonal analytical approaches, IBP2 was identified as a diagnostic biomarker candidate based on its significantly increased abundance in the late-stage HGSOC patient sera compared to the healthy controls and patients with benign ovarian conditions. Conclusions: A multiplexed targeted PRM MS assay was applied to detect candidate diagnostic biomarkers in HGSOC sera. To evaluate the clinical utility of the IBP2 PRM assay for HGSOC detection, further studies need to be performed using a larger patient cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalClinical Proteomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Diagnostic biomarkers
  • High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC)
  • Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 2 (IBP2)
  • Parallel reaction monitoring (PRM)
  • Serum
  • Targeted mass spectrometry


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