Elevated serum levels of alpha-1-acid glycoprotein (AGP) are known to be associated with several types of cancer. In addition, some reports have indicated that changes in glycosylation of AGP are associated with cancer progression. However, changes in AGP levels of serum and changes in glycosylation of AGPs in breast cancer have not been specifically studied. In the present study, serum AGP levels in benign (BN) cancer and breast cancer stage I (BC I), BC IIA, BC IIB, and BC III in Korean women were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). AGP was purified from individual sera by hot phenol extraction and then subjected to AGP glycosylation analysis. Three types of AGP glycosylation (fucosylation, high-mannose-type and sialylation) were detected using enzyme-linked lectin assays (ELLAs). Serum AGP levels were higher in BC I, BC IIA, BC IIB, and BC III, than in the BN group, and the level in BC I and BC IIA was high enough to be distinguished from BN. Meanwhile, terminal fucosylation and high-mannose-type glycans appeared to be lowest in BC I. The glycosylation levels of BC I provide sensitivity and specificity that make BC I clearly distinguishable from BC IIA, BC IIB, and BC III as well as BN. Therefore, determination of serum AGP or AGP glycosylation level could be useful for detecting the early stages of breast cancer.
Keywords: Alpha-1 acid glycoprotein; breast cancer; glycosylation; lectin.