The discovery that the appearance of specific proteins (or changes in the structure or concentration of a protein) in body fluids could be associated with the presence of particular cancers goes back to the 19th century, but actually identifying and validating these proteins has been difficult. Humans are estimated to have roughly 400,000 different proteins, with the specifics constantly changing with age, health and environment. In the 159 years since the discovery of the first protein cancer biomarker, only nine proteins have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as diagnostic markers for cancer.
The rapidly developing field of proteomics--the large-scale study of proteins and their interactions through methods such as multidimensional separations, mass spectrometry and protein arrays--could significantly advance the search for novel cancer-related proteins. However, there is a shortage of rigorous measurement quality assurance tools for proteomics to ensure reliable and reproducible research results. NCI has begun a $104 million, 5-year program called the Clinical Proteomic Technology Initiative for Cancer (http://proteomics.cancer.gov) to refine and standardize proteomic technologies, reagents and methods to establish the measurement technology needed to validate protein discoveries and move these technologies into a clinical setting.
Under an agreement finalized on May 5, NIST will develop a measurement assessment material composed of proteins mimicking the complexity an
Contact: Michael Baum
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)