Background: Prior studies suggested that glycans were differentially expressed in patients with ovarian cancer and controls. We hypothesized that glycan-based biomarkers might serve as a diagnostic test for ovarian cancer and evaluated the ability of glycans to distinguish ovarian cancer cases from matched controls. Methods: Serum samples were obtained from the tissue-banking repository of the Gynecologic Oncology Group, and included healthy female controls (n = 100), women diagnosed with low malignant potential (LMP) tumors (n = 52), and epithelial ovarian cancers (EOC) cases (n = 147). Cases and controls were matched on age at enrollment within ±5 years. Serum samples were analyzed by glycomics analysis to detect abundance differences in glycan expression levels. A two-stage procedure was carried out for biomarker discovery and validation. Candidate classifiers of glycans that separated cases from controls were developed using a training set in the discovery phase and the classification performance of the candidate classifiers was assessed using independent test samples that were not used in discovery. Results: The patterns of glycans showed discriminatory power for distinguishing EOC and LMP cases from controls. Candidate glycan-based biomarkers developed on a training set (sensitivity, 86% and specificity, 95.8% for distinguishing EOC from controls through leave-one-out cross-validation) confirmed their potential use as a detection test using an independent test set (sensitivity, 70% and specificity, 86.5%). Conclusion: Formal investigations of glycan biomarkers that distinguish cases and controls show great promise for an ovarian cancer diagnostic test. Further validation of a glycan-based test for detection of ovarian cancer is warranted. Impact: An emerging diagnostic test based on the knowledge gained from understanding the glycobiology should lead to an assay that improves sensitivity and specificity and allows for early detection of ovarian cancer.
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