Biomarkers are important clinical tools for cancer screening and diagnosis and also can be used by doctors to tailor patients’ treatments. But the “gold standard” — a protein biomarker or set of biomarkers that identifies patients with cancer from a simple blood test — has proven elusive for most forms of the disease.
To address this critical need, the NCI has established a collaborative network of five CPTAC teams. The CPTAC's ultimate goal is to set standards, establish procedures, and provide reagents to enable cancer researchers to effectively and reproducibly use proteomics approaches. This, in turn, should lead to improved diagnostics, therapies, and perhaps preventive measures for cancer.
The Broad Institute team, led by principal investigator Steven Carr together with co-principal investigators Amanda Paulovich of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Leigh Anderson of the Plasma Proteome Institute, is developing new technologies that aim to significantly extend the limits of detection and quantitation of proteins in blood to the levels required for clinical analysis. These methods build on Multiple Reaction Monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry, an approach that has been used previously in clinical chemistry to measure small molecule drugs and metabolites, but now is being tailored for protein biomarkers.