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Mol Diagn. 2004;8(2):77-85.

Proteomic patterns as a diagnostic tool for early-stage cancer: a review of its progress to a clinically relevant tool.

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Laboratory of Proteomics and Analytical Technologies, SAIC-Frederick, Inc, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA.


The pace of development in novel technologies that promise improvements in the early diagnosis of disease is truly impressive. One such technology at the forefront of this revolution is mass spectrometry. New capabilities in mass spectrometry have provided the means for the development of proteomics, and the race is on to find innovative ways to apply this powerful technology to solving the problems faced in clinical medicine. One area that has garnered much attention over the past few years is the use of mass spectral patterns for cancer diagnostics. The use of these so-called 'proteomic patterns' for disease diagnosis relies fundamentally on the pattern of signals observed within a mass spectrum rather than the more conventional identification and quantitation of a biomarker such as in the case of cancer antigen-125- or prostate-specific antigen. The inherent throughput of proteomic pattern technology enables the analysis of hundreds of clinical samples per day. Currently, there are two primary means by which proteomic patterns can be acquired, surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization (SELDI) and an electrospray ionization (ESI) method that has been popularized under the name, OvaCheck. In this review, an historical perspective on the development of proteomic patterns for the diagnosis of early-stage cancers is described. In addition, a critical assessment of the overall technology is presented with an emphasis on the steps required to enable proteomic pattern analysis to become a viable clinical tool for diagnosing early-stage cancers.

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