New tech promises to speed up biomarker validation

Discovering cancer biomarkers is all well and good, but researchers the world over often struggle to validate their findings due to a lack of reproducible methods to measure predictive proteins. Now, thanks to work from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, investigators believe they've discovered a way to measure the entire human repertoire of proteins.

As it stands, it's nearly impossible to make robust measurements of most human proteins, Fred Hutch proteomics expert Amanda Paulovich said, requiring scientists to test an unwieldy number of proteins to suss out a single biomarker. With that in mind, Paulovich and her team developed technology called multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry, which allows for highly precise quantifications of hundreds of proteins per day, letting researchers target specific proteins in tiny samples or biopsies.

In a study, the Fred Hutch team reached out to scientists from the Broad Institute and Seoul National University to help assay more than 300 breast cancer-related proteins, finding that their method could duplicate and extend the findings of traditional tests, only faster and more efficiently. That established the feasibility of protein quantification, the researchers said, and next they want to expand their work and eventually create an international effort to quantify every known human protein.

"This method has the potential to completely revolutionize how we measure human proteins," Paulovich said in a statement. "Having a global resource for standardized quantification of all human proteins would set new standards that would undoubtedly increase the reproducibility of preclinical research, which would have a dramatic impact on the translation of novel therapeutics and diagnostics."

To get there, Paulovich and company plan to launch an open-source web portal next year, posting highly validated assays to help researchers around the globe push forward with their own proteomic work.

- read the statement

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