Mass spectrometry in cancer biomarker research: A case for immunodepletion of abundant blood-derived proteins from clinical tissue specimens

Darue A. Prieto, Donald J. Johann, Bih Rong Wei, Xiaoying Ye, King C. Chan, Dwight V. Nissley, R. Mark Simpson, Deborah E. Citrin, Crystal L. Mackall, W. Marston Linehan, Josip Blonder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The discovery of clinically relevant cancer biomarkers using mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics has proven difficult, primarily because of the enormous dynamic range of blood-derived protein concentrations and the fact that the 22 most abundant blood-derived proteins constitute approximately 99% of the total plasma protein mass. Immunodepletion of clinical body fluid specimens (e.g., serum/plasma) for the removal of highly abundant proteins is a reasonable and reproducible solution. Often overlooked, clinical tissue specimens also contain a formidable amount of highly abundant blood-derived proteins present in tissue-embedded networks of blood/lymph capillaries and interstitial fluid. Hence, the dynamic range impediment to biomarker discovery remains a formidable obstacle, regardless of clinical sample type (solid tissue and/or body fluid). Thus, we optimized and applied simultaneous immunodepletion of blood-derived proteins from solid tissue and peripheral blood, using clear cell renal cell carcinoma as a model disease. Integrative analysis of data from this approach and genomic data obtained from the same type of tumor revealed concordant key pathways and protein targets germane to clear cell renal cell carcinoma. This includes the activation of the lipogenic pathway characterized by increased expression of adipophilin (PLIN2) along with 'cadherin switching, a phenomenon indicative of transcriptional reprogramming linked to renal epithelial dedifferentiation. We also applied immunodepletion of abundant blood-derived proteins to various tissue types (e.g., adipose tissue and breast tissue) showing unambiguously that the removal of abundant blood-derived proteins represents a powerful tool for the reproducible profiling of tissue proteomes. Herein, we show that the removal of abundant blood-derived proteins from solid tissue specimens is of equal importance to depletion of body fluids and recommend its routine use in the context of biological discovery and/or cancer biomarker research. Finally, this perspective presents the background, rationale and strategy for using tissue-directed high-resolution/accuracy MS-based shotgun proteomics to detect genuine tumor proteins in the peripheral blood of a patient diagnosed with nonmetastatic cancer, employing concurrent liquid chromatography-MS analysis of immunodepleted clinical tissue and blood specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages18
JournalBiomarkers in Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • blood
  • cancer biomarker discovery
  • clinical proteomics
  • clinical specimens
  • high-resolution/accurate LC-MS
  • immunoaffinity depletion
  • tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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