- Open Access
SELDI-TOF MS profiling of serum for detection of nasopharyngeal carcinoma
- Yuan-Jiao Huang†1,
- Chao Xuan†1,
- Bei-Bei Zhang1,
- Ming Liao1,
- Kai-Feng Deng1,
- Min He1 and
- Jin-Min Zhao2Email author
© Huang et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2009
- Received: 29 November 2008
- Accepted: 17 June 2009
- Published: 17 June 2009
No satisfactory biomarkers are currently available to screen for nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). We have developed and evaluated surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF MS) for detection and analysis of multiple proteins for distinguishing individuals with NPC from control individuals.
A preliminary learning set and a classification tree of spectra derived from 24 patients with NPC and a group of 24 noncancer controls were used to develop a proteomic model that discriminated cancer from noncancer effectively. Then, the validity of the classification tree was challenged with a blind test set, which included another 20 patients with NPC and 12 noncancer controls.
A panel of 3 biomarkers ranging m/z 3–20 k was selected to establish Decision Tree model by BPS with sensitivity of 91.66% and specificity of 95.83%. The ability to detect NPC patients was evaluated, a sensitivity of 95.0% and specificity of 83.33% were validated in blind testing set.
This high-flux proteomic classification system will provide a highly accurate and innovative approach for the detection/diagnosis of NPC.
- Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
- Child Node
- Sinapinic Acid
- Noncancer Control
- ProteinChip Array
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a disease that has remarkable racial and geographic distribution . It is rare in Europe and North America. However, it has a high incidence in several southern areas in China, especially in the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region et al . The phenomenon indicates that the development of this cancer must be related to special genetic and environmental factors.
NPC is highly sensitive to radiotherapy (RT) and chemotherapy (CT), but the outcome is related to the extent of the disease. Unfortunately, most patients with NPC are diagnosed at stage III or IV NPC when they visit the otorhinolaryngologists. Therefore, early detection and diagnosis of NPC is crucial for a better outcome of the patients .
Routine clinical methods of examination for nasopharyngeal diseases, such as the use of nasoendoscopy, are not applicable as a screening tool because can be used only by an otorhinolaryngologist and are not cost effective. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is consistently associated with NPC, and is classified as a group I carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) [4, 5]. Serological tests, detecting the antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), such as viral capsid antigen (VCA) immunoglobulin A (IgA), early antigen (EA) IgA, and Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA1) IgA have been used routinely as serological screening markers in high-risk populations. Nevertheless, none of them has proven to be a stand-alone and reliable assay due to either low sensitivity or specificity [6, 7]. Therefore, identification of additional biomarkers is important for the early detection and management of this disease.
The proteome reflect all proteins and peptides that may be related with one gene and allows a more detailed evaluation of disease status using the human proteome. At present, it has become relatively easy to detect the protein profiling in the crude biological samples with surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF MS). The proteomic technique was first introduced by Hutchens and Yip in 1993 , and applied to protein chips with different chromatographic affinities in serum. This is a high-throughput technical plateform which can detect multiple protein changes simultaneously with high sensitivity and specificity [9, 10].
In the present study, by comparative analysis of patients with NPC and noncancer controls, using Ciphergen SELDI Software 3.1.1 with Biomarker Wizard, some potential serum NPC-associated proteins biomarkers were discovered, which might be new candidate biomarkers for NPC diagnosis. At the same time, the diagnostic model was established which could effectively differentiate NPC patients from noncancer controls.
Demographics of The Study Population
III & IV
Serum Protein Profiling
Each serum sample was analyzed on four different ProteinChip arrays surfaces: hydrophobic (H50), cation-exchange (CM10), anion-exchange (Q10) and metal binding (IMAC30-Cu). In addition, sinapinic acid (SPA) was used as energy absorbing molecule (EAM) on all surfaces in parallel experiments. The CM10 chip was found to attain the highest number of protein peaks among the chips tested. Therefore, it was suitable for this work and used throughout the study. Serum samples were thawed and briefly centrifuged (5 minutes, 10,000 revolutions per minute [rpm]) and pretreated before loading. To 10 μl of each serum sample, 20 μl U9(5 μl of a solution containing 8 mol/L urea and 10 g/L CHAPS in 1×phosphate-buffered saline(PBS) [pH 7.2])was added. The mixture was incubated with vigorous shaking at 4°C for 30 minutes. After incubation, the diluted serum mixture was mixed with 360 μl binding/washing buffer (0.1 M sodium acetate, [pH 4.0]). Place the ProteinChip array cassette in the bioprocessor and add 200 μl binding solution to each well. Incubate for 5 minutes at room temperature with vigorous shaking (e.g., 250 rpm or on Micromix shaker setting 20/7), Repeat once. Remove the buffer from the wells. Immediately add 100 μl sample to each well. Incubate with vigorous shaking for 1 hour at room temperature. Remove the samples from the wells, and wash each well with 200 μl binding buffer for 5 minutes, with agitation. Repeat once. Remove the binding buffer from the wells, and add 200 μl HEPES (50 mM hydroxyethyl piperazine ethanesulfonic acid, [pH4.0]) to each well; remove immediately. Then, the ProteinChip was removed from the bioprocessor and dried at room temperature. Apply 1 μl of SPA (sinapinic acid [Sigma Chemical, St. Louis, MO] in 50% acetonitrile volume/volume (v/v) and 0.5% v/v trifluoroacetic acid) Energy Absorbing Molecules (EAM) in solution to each spot. Air-dry for 5 minutes and apply another 1 μl of SPA in solution. Allow to air-dry.
SELDI-TOF MS Analysis
Mass/charge (m/z) spectra of proteins with affinity to the Weak Cation Exchanger surface were generated in a Ciphergen Protein Biology System (PBS-IIc) plus TOF-MS Reader (Ciphergen Biosystems). Data were collected by averaging the results of a total of 200 laser shots with an intensity of 180, a detector sensitivity of 8, a high mass to m/z 100 k and an optimization range of m/z 2–20 k. Mass curacy was calibrated externally using the All-in-One peptide mass standard (Ciphergen Biosystems) and SELDI-TOF-MS analysis was performed on the same day.
The entire dataset was randomly separated into training and test datasets before analysis. A training set consisted of spectra data from 24 patients with NPC and 24 noncancer controls to build up the classification tree. The discriminatory ability of the classification algorithm was then challenged with a blind test dataset consisting of another spectra data of another 32 serum samples. All spectral data were normalized by total ion current after background subtraction. The range of peak masses was analyzed between m/z 2–20 k because the majority of resolved protein/peptides were found in this range. The molecular masses from m/z 0–2 k were excluded from analysis because they were mainly the signal noises of the energy absorbing molecule (EAM). The Biomarker Wizard (Ciphergen Biosystems) was subsequently used to make peak detection and clustering across all spectra in the training set with the following settings: signal/noise (first pass): 5; minimum peak threshold: 15% of all; mass error: 0.3%; and signal/noise (second pass): 2 for the m/z 2–20 k mass range. Corresponding peaks in the spectra from the test set were likewise identified using the clustering data from the training set by the same software. The spectral data of the training set were then exported as spreadsheet files and then further analyzed by the Biomarker Pattern Software (BPS) (version 4.0; Ciphergen Biosystems) to develop a classification tree.
Decision Tree Classification
One of the objectives of SELDI-TOF MS data analysis is to build a Decision Tree that is able to determine the target condition (case or control, cancer or non-cancer) for a given patient's profile. Peak mass and intensity were exported to an excel file, then transferred to BPS. The classification model was built up with BPS. A Decision Tree was set up to divide the training dataset into either the cancer group or the control group through multiple rounds of decision-making. When the dataset was first transferred to BPS, the dataset formed a "root node". The software tried to find the best peak to separate this dataset into two "child nodes" based on peak intensity. To achieve this, the software would identify the best peak and set a peak intensity threshold. If the peak intensity of a blind sample was lower than or equal to the threshold, this peak would go to the left-side child node. Otherwise, the peak would go to the right-side child node. The process would go on for each child node until a blind sample entered a terminal node, either labeled as cancer or control. Peaks selected by the process to form the model were the ones that yielded the least classification error when these peaks were combined to be used. The double-blind sample dataset was used to challenge the model. Peaks from the blind dataset were selected with Biomarker Wizard feature of the Software, following the exact conditions under which peaks from the training dataset were selected. The peak intensities were then transferred to BPS, and each sample was identified as either control or cancer based on the model. The results were compared to clinical data for model evaluation. To characterize the protein peaks of potential interest, serum profiling of patients with NPC and normal control was compared. Mean peak intensity of each protein was calculated and compared (nonparametric test) in each group of serum samples .
Sensitivity was calculated as the ratio of the number of correctly classified diseased samples to the total number of diseased samples. Specificity was calculated as the ratio of the number of negative samples correctly classified to the total number of true negative samples.
Reproducibility and precision
To assess the precision and accuracy of the proteomic data in our analyses, we employed external calibration standards using all-in-one peptide molecular mass standard (Ciphergen Biosystems, Inc. Ciphergen Biosystems, Inc. USA), allowing us to achieve a mass accuracy of approximately 0.1%. To confirm the reproducibility of our analyses, we compared 10 selected M/Z peaks from an unaffected person. The coefficient of variance for the selected M/Z peaks with the highest amplitude was less than 15%.
Serum SELDI profiles of NPC versus nocancer normal controls
Statistical Analysis of 3 Biomarkers for Screening Patients With Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Versus Healthy Controls
Intensity, mean ± SD
Protein peaks, m/z
2.13 ± 1.44
1.22 ± 1.04
2.00 ± 1.31
1.38 ± 0.60
0.86 ± 0.54
1.31 ± 0.60
Performance of the Decision Tree Analysis of NPC in Training Test and Blind test Sets
Accuracy rate, %
Blind test set
Currently, there are no satisfactory serum diagnostic markers for NPC, especially in the early stage . Complex serum proteomic patterns might reflect the potential pathological state of a disease such as NPC and enable the scientific community to develop more reliable diagnostic tools. In this study, we used SELDI-TOF MS technology to disclose the serum protein 'fingerprints' of NPC and thereby establish a new diagnostic model for NPC.
SELDI-TOF MS allows the identification of large numbers of potential biomarkers in a biological sample, based on molecular weights and chemical characteristics. In essence it provides high throughput screening for biomarkers, particularly when present in low abundance, avoiding the limitations of antibody binding and of only analyzing predetermined proteins. It is able, therefore, to identify proteins not previously appreciated to be potentially valuable biomarkers. The technology has been applied to serum and urine to identify disease specific biomarkers . However, the number of peaks that can be identified by this approach does not cover the whole serum proteome. This is related to several potential technical limitations. A more complete proteome could be obtained by depleting serum of the most abundant proteins, preliminary fractionation of serum before analysis by SELDI-TOF MS, or by testing several different ProteinChip arrays. However, these technical limitations are counterbalanced by the high efficiency and ease of use of the system, which makes SELDI-TOF MS a useful tool for clinical proteomics .
The tumorigenesis of NPC is a complex, multistep process that involves multiple genetic mutations . In light of the multifactorial nature of NPC, it is plausible that a combination of multiple biomarkers will be necessary to improve the diagnosis of NPC. Our study has identified 94 potential biomarkers and established a protein diagnostic pattern to distinguish NPC from noncancer controls with a specificity of 95.83% and a sensitivity of 91.66%. The accuracy rate of this pattern was 93.75%. Among the 3 biomarkers, the m/z with m/z 3159.835 5187.656 were down-regulated in the cancer group, and the m/z with 13738.6 was up-regulated in the cancer group. In the blind test, the sensitivity was 95.0% and the specificity was 83.33%. These results suggest that this pattern of biomarkers can be used for the early detection and screening of NPC. Further research is needed to identify the 3 unknown m/z protein species in the serum profiles of our patients and to confirm our current findings in larger cohorts of study samples.
All together, the SELDI-TOF MS ProteinChip technology can demonstrate that biomarkers are present in patients with NPC and help establish differential patterns with high sensitivity and specificity. Done reproducibly in multiple laboratories and the analysis is amenable to simultaneous analysis of dozens or hundreds of samples. In addition to the current work detailed here, similar results have been demonstrated in another recent publication [15–17] and techniques to further improve data quality for robust peak identification have also been described . These features establish SELDI analysis as a powerful approach to proteomic analysis in population based studies, and hence the utility of this technology can be exploited in all phases of the NPC studies.
Project supported by Local High Disease Control and Prevention Research Laboratory Foundation of Guangxi, China (NO.0630006-5E7Z; NO.0842009-Z14); The Natural Science Foundation of Guangxi, China (No.0511201-4)
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