The glycolyzer: automated glycan annotation software for high performance mass spectrometry and its application to ovarian cancer glycan biomarker discovery

Proteomics. 2012 Aug;12(15-16):2523-38. doi: 10.1002/pmic.201100273.


Human serum glycomics is a promising method for finding cancer biomarkers but often lacks the tools for streamlined data analysis. The Glycolyzer software incorporates a suite of analytic tools capable of identifying informative glycan peaks out of raw mass spectrometry data. As a demonstration of its utility, the program was used to identify putative biomarkers for epithelial ovarian cancer from a human serum sample set. A randomized, blocked, and blinded experimental design was used on a discovery set consisting of 46 cases and 48 controls. Retrosynthetic glycan libraries were used for data analysis and several significant candidate glycan biomarkers were discovered via hypothesis testing. The significant glycans were attributed to a glycan family based on glycan composition relationships and incorporated into a linear classifier motif test. The motif test was then applied to the discovery set to evaluate the disease state discrimination performance. The test provided strongly predictive results based on receiver operator characteristic curve analysis. The area under the receiver operator characteristic curve was 0.93. Using the Glycolyzer software, we were able to identify a set of glycan biomarkers that highly discriminate between cases and controls, and are ready to be formally validated in subsequent studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Automation
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Female
  • Glycomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation*
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood*
  • Polysaccharides / blood*
  • ROC Curve
  • Software*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Polysaccharides
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid