Glycomics analysis of serum: a potential new biomarker for ovarian cancer?

Int J Gynecol Cancer. May-Jun 2008;18(3):470-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1438.2007.01028.x. Epub 2007 Jul 26.


We recently reported the use of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) Fourier transformation mass spectrometry (FTMS) techniques to identify unique glycan markers in ovarian cancer cell lines which may be biomarkers for diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Glycan markers and CA125 levels are compared in a series of ovarian cancer patients and normal control subjects. Oligosaccharides (OS) were cleaved from the serum glycoproteins and isolated using solid phase extraction. MALDI-FTMS was then used to identify unique mass spectrometry (MS) peaks. Sensitivity, specificity, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve were calculated to measure the test performance of glycan markers. Sixteen unique OS MS signals were identified in ovarian cancer patient sera. Their additive mass/charge intensities were used to determine their presence or absence. The ovarian cancer patients varied in their disease status, with initial cancer stages ranging from IC to IV. Forty-four of 48 patients had detectable OS signals, with CA125 values between 2 and 17,044. Four patients had undetectable signals and their CA125 ranged between 7 and 10. Twenty-three of 24 control subjects had no detectable glycan markers, with CA125 levels between 10 and 64. Sensitivity and specificity values were determined to be 91.6% and 95.8%, respectively. The area under the ROC curve for all 72 samples was 0.954 (95% CI: 0.896, 1.0) using the glycomics assay, which was superior to CA125 in discriminating between cases and controls. This preliminary study suggests that glycomics profiling may be useful for the detection of ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Glycomics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Oligosaccharides / blood*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Polysaccharides / blood
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods
  • Survival Analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polysaccharides