Background: Lung cancer is known as the top cancer killer in most developed countries. However, there is currently no promising diagnostic or prognostic biomarker for lung cancer. This study aims to discover non-invasive differential markers in the serum of lung cancer patients, to determine the protein identity of the candidate biomarker(s), and to investigate any clinical implication of the biomarker(s) concerned.
Methods: Blood specimens were collected from 154 pre-operative patients with lung cancer and 35 healthy blood donors with no evidence of lung cancer. Fractionated serum samples were processed by surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MS). Candidate biomarker was identified using sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and tryptic digestion followed by tandem MS fragmentation analysis, which was subsequently validated with immunoassay.
Results: A differential protein with m/z 11.6 kDa was detected and identified as an isoform of human serum amyloid A (SAA). It was significantly increased by 1822% in lung cancer patients when compared with the healthy controls, which gave an area under the receiver operator characteristic curve of 0.88. In addition, the protein was also significantly elevated by 77% in lung cancer patients with survival <5 years when compared with patients with survival > or =5 years.
Conclusion: There are several functions of the SAA protein, described in the context of inflammation, that are compatible with the mechanism of tumour invasion and metastasis. Our study not only detected increased SAA level in the serum of lung cancer patients but also identified that elevated SAA level may be a non-invasive biomarker useful for the prediction of lung cancer prognosis.