Background: Extensive prostate specific antigen screening for prostate cancer generates a high number of unnecessary biopsies and over-treatment due to insufficient differentiation between indolent and aggressive tumours. We hypothesized that seminal plasma is a robust source of novel prostate cancer (PCa) biomarkers with the potential to improve primary diagnosis of and to distinguish advanced from indolent disease.
Methodology/principal findings: In an open-label case/control study 125 patients (70 PCa, 21 benign prostate hyperplasia, 25 chronic prostatitis, 9 healthy controls) were enrolled in 3 centres. Biomarker panels a) for PCa diagnosis (comparison of PCa patients versus benign controls) and b) for advanced disease (comparison of patients with post surgery Gleason score <7 versus Gleason score >7) were sought. Independent cohorts were used for proteomic biomarker discovery and testing the performance of the identified biomarker profiles. Seminal plasma was profiled using capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry. Pre-analytical stability and analytical precision of the proteome analysis were determined. Support vector machine learning was used for classification. Stepwise application of two biomarker signatures with 21 and 5 biomarkers provided 83% sensitivity and 67% specificity for PCa detection in a test set of samples. A panel of 11 biomarkers for advanced disease discriminated between patients with Gleason score 7 and organ-confined (<pT3a) or advanced (≥pT3a) disease with 80% sensitivity and 82% specificity in a preliminary validation setting. Seminal profiles showed excellent pre-analytical stability. Eight biomarkers were identified as fragments of N-acetyllactosaminide beta-1,3-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase, prostatic acid phosphatase, stabilin-2, GTPase IMAP family member 6, semenogelin-1 and -2. Restricted sample size was the major limitation of the study.
Conclusions/significance: Seminal plasma represents a robust source of potential peptide makers for primary PCa diagnosis. Our findings warrant further prospective validation to confirm the diagnostic potential of identified seminal biomarker candidates.