BMC Cancer 19 (1) 741 [2019-07-29; online 2019-07-29]
The overall prognosis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is poor, and currently only patients with localized disease are potentially curable. Therefore, preferably non-invasively determined biomarkers that detect NSCLC patients at early stages of the disease are of high clinical relevance. The aim of this study was to identify and validate novel protein markers in plasma using the highly sensitive DNA-assisted multiplex proximity extension assay (PEA) to discriminate NSCLC from other lung diseases. Plasma samples were collected from a total of 343 patients who underwent surgical resection for different lung diseases, including 144 patients with lung adenocarcinoma (LAC), 68 patients with non-malignant lung disease, 83 patients with lung metastasis of colorectal cancers and 48 patients with typical carcinoid. One microliter of plasma was analyzed using PEA, allowing detection and quantification of 92 established cancer related proteins. The concentrations of the plasma proteins were compared between disease groups. The comparison between LAC and benign samples revealed significantly different plasma levels for four proteins; CXCL17, CEACAM5, VEGFR2 and ERBB3 (adjusted p-value < 0.05). A multi-parameter classifier was developed to discriminate between samples from LAC patients and from patients with non-malignant lung conditions. With a bootstrap aggregated decision tree algorithm (TreeBagger), a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 64% was achieved to detect LAC in this risk population. By applying the highly sensitive PEA, reliable protein profiles could be determined in microliter amounts of plasma. We further identified proteins that demonstrated different plasma concentration in defined disease groups and developed a signature that holds potential to be included in a screening assay for early lung cancer detection.