Using tears as a non-invasive source for early detection of breast cancer

Anna Daily, Prashanth Ravishankar, Steve Harms, V. Suzanne Klimberg

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    13 Scopus citations


    The changing expression levels of ocular proteins in response to systemic disease has been well established in literature. In this study, we examined the ocular proteome to identify protein biomarkers with altered expression levels in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Tear samples were collected from 273 participants using Schirmer strip collection methods. Following protein elution, proteome wide trypsin digestion with Liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was used to identify potential protein biomarkers with altered expression levels in breast cancer patients. Selected biomarkers were further validated by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). A total of 102 individual tear samples (51 breast cancer, 51 control) were analyzed by LC-MS/MS which identified 301 proteins. Spectral intensities between the groups were compared and 14 significant proteins (p-value <0.05) were identified as potential biomarkers in breast cancer patients. Three biomarkers, S100A8 (p-value = 0.0069, 7.8-fold increase), S100A9 (p-value = 0.0048, 10.2-fold increase), and Galectin-3 binding protein (p-value = 0.01, 3.0-fold increase) with an increased expression in breast cancer patients were selected for validation using ELISA. Validation by ELISA was conducted using 171 individual tear samples (75 Breast Cancer and 96 Control). Similar to the observed LC-MS/MS results, S100A8 (p-value <0.0001) and S100A9 (p-value <0.0001) showed significantly higher expression in breast cancer patients. However, galectin-3 binding protein had increased expression in the control group. Our results provide further support for using tear proteins to detect non-ocular systemic diseases such as breast cancer. Our work provides crucial details to support the continued evaluation of tear samples in the screening and diagnosis of breast cancer and paves the way for future evaluation of the tear proteome for screening and diagnosis of systemic diseases.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere0267676
    JournalPloS one
    Issue number4 April
    StatePublished - Apr 2022

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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