Pancreatic cancer (PC) is a highly aggressive disease that frequently remains undetected until it has progressed to an advanced, systemic stage. Successful treatment of PC is hindered by the lack of early detection. The application of proteomic analysis to PC combined with subcellular fractionation has introduced new possibilities in the field of biomarker discovery. We utilized matched pairs of pancreas tumor and non-tumor pancreas from patients undergoing tumor resection. The tissues were treated to obtain cellular protein fractions corresponding to cytosol, membrane, nucleus and cytoskeleton. The fractions were then separated by molecular weight and digested with trypsin, followed by liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. The spectra obtained were searched using Sequest engine and combined into a single analysis file to obtain a semi-quantitative number, spectral count, using Scaffold software. We identified 2393 unique proteins in non-tumor and cancer pancreas. Utilizing PLGEM statistical analysis we determined 104 proteins were significantly changed in cancer. From these, we further validated four secreted proteins that are up-regulated in cancer and have potential for development as minimally-invasive diagnostic markers. We conclude that subcellular fractionation followed by gel electrophoresis and tandem mass spectrometry is a powerful strategy for identification of differentially expressed proteins in pancreatic cancer.
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