Background: There is an unmet clinical need for economic, minimally invasive procedures that use a limited number of cells for the molecular profiling of tumors in individual patients. Reverse-phase protein microarray (RPPM) technology has been applied successfully to the quantitative analysis of breast, ovarian, prostate, and colorectal cancers using frozen surgical specimens.
Methods: For this report, the authors investigated the novel use of RPPM technology for the analysis of both archival cytology aspirate smears and frozen fine-needle aspiration (FNA) samples. RPPMs were printed with 63 breast FNA samples that were obtained before, during, and after treatment from 21 patients who were enrolled in a Phase II trial of neoadjuvant capecitabine and docetaxel therapy for breast cancer.
Results: Based on an MCF7 cell line model of breast adenocarcinoma, the sensitivity of the RPPM detection method was in the femtomolar range with a coefficient of variance <13.5% for the most dilute sample. Assay linearity was noted from 1.0 microg/microL to 7.8 ng/microL total protein/array spot (R(2) = 0.9887) for a membrane receptor protein (epidermal growth factor receptor; R(2) = 0.9935).
Conclusions: The results from this study indicated that low-abundance analytes and phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated proteins in specimens that consist of a few thousand cells obtained through FNA can be quantified with RPPM technology. The ability to monitor the in vivo state of cell-signaling proteins before and after treatment potentially will augment the ability to design individualized therapy regimens through the mapping of aberrant cell-signaling phenotypes. The mapping of these protein pathways will further the development of rational drug targets.