Head-to-Head Comparison and Evaluation of 92 Plasma Protein Biomarkers for Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer in a True Screening Setting

Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Jul 15;21(14):3318-26. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-3051. Epub 2015 May 26.


Purpose: Novel noninvasive blood-based screening tests are strongly desirable for early detection of colorectal cancer. We aimed to conduct a head-to-head comparison of the diagnostic performance of 92 plasma-based tumor-associated protein biomarkers for early detection of colorectal cancer in a true screening setting.

Experimental design: Among all available 35 carriers of colorectal cancer and a representative sample of 54 men and women free of colorectal neoplasms recruited in a cohort of screening colonoscopy participants in 2005-2012 (N = 5,516), the plasma levels of 92 protein biomarkers were measured. ROC analyses were conducted to evaluate the diagnostic performance. A multimarker algorithm was developed through the Lasso logistic regression model and validated in an independent validation set. The .632+ bootstrap method was used to adjust for the potential overestimation of diagnostic performance.

Results: Seventeen protein markers were identified to show statistically significant differences in plasma levels between colorectal cancer cases and controls. The adjusted area under the ROC curves (AUC) of these 17 individual markers ranged from 0.55 to 0.70. An eight-marker classifier was constructed that increased the adjusted AUC to 0.77 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.59-0.91]. When validating this algorithm in an independent validation set, the AUC was 0.76 (95% CI, 0.65-0.85), and sensitivities at cutoff levels yielding 80% and 90% specificities were 65% (95% CI, 41-80%) and 44% (95% CI, 24-72%), respectively.

Conclusions: The identified profile of protein biomarkers could contribute to the development of a powerful multimarker blood-based test for early detection of colorectal cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor