Background: Strategies to discover circulating protein markers of ovarian cancer are urgently needed. We developed a novel technology that permits us to isolate recombinant antibodies directed against the potential serum biomarkers, to facilitate the further development of affinity reagents necessary to construct diagnostic tests.
Methods: This study presents a novel discovery approach based on serum immunoprecipitation with cancer-specific in vivo biotinylated recombinant antibodies (biobodies) derived from differentially selected yeast-display scFv, and analysis of the eluted serum proteins by electrophoresis and/or mass spectrometry.
Results: Using this strategy we identified catabolic fragments of complement factors, EMILIN2, Von Willebrand factor and phosphatidylethanolamine-binding protein 1 (PEBP1 or RKIP) in patient sera. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a soluble form of PEBP1 in human. Independent evidence for ovarian cancer-specific expression of PEBP1 in patient sera was found by ELISA assays and antibody arrays with anti-PEBP1 antibodies. PEBP1 was detected in 29 out of 30 ascites samples and discriminated ovarian cancer sera from controls (p = 0.02). Finally, we confirmed by western blots the presence of a 21-23 kDa fragment corresponding to the expected size of PEBP1 but we also showed additional bands of 38 kDa and 50-52 kDa in various tissues and cell lines.
Conclusion: We conclude that the novel strategy described here allows the identification of candidate biomarkers that can be variants of normally expressed proteins or that display cancer-specific post-translational modifications.