Theranostics 2017; 7(14):3559-3572. doi:10.7150/thno.20797


Mass spectrometry-assisted gel-based proteomics in cancer biomarker discovery: approaches and application

Rongrong Huang1, Zhongsi Chen1, Lei He1, Nongyue He1,4✉, Zhijiang Xi2, Zhiyang Li1,3, Yan Deng1,4✉, Xin Zeng5✉

1. State Key Laboratory of Bioelectronics, School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China;
2. School of Medicine, Yangtze University, Jingzhou 434023, China;
3. Department of Clinical Laboratory, the Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University Medical School, Nanjing 210008, China;
4. Economical Forest Cultivation and Utilization of 2011 Collaborative Innovation Center in Hunan Province, Hunan Key Laboratory of Green Chemistry and Application of Biological Nanotechnology; Hunan University of Technology, Zhuzhou 412007, China;
5. Nanjing Maternity and Child Health Medical Institute, Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital Affiliated to Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing 210004, China

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Huang R, Chen Z, He L, He N, Xi Z, Li Z, Deng Y, Zeng X. Mass spectrometry-assisted gel-based proteomics in cancer biomarker discovery: approaches and application. Theranostics 2017; 7(14):3559-3572. doi:10.7150/thno.20797. Available from

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There is a critical need for the discovery of novel biomarkers for early detection and targeted therapy of cancer, a major cause of deaths worldwide. In this respect, proteomic technologies, such as mass spectrometry (MS), enable the identification of pathologically significant proteins in various types of samples. MS is capable of high-throughput profiling of complex biological samples including blood, tissues, urine, milk, and cells. MS-assisted proteomics has contributed to the development of cancer biomarkers that may form the foundation for new clinical tests. It can also aid in elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying cancer. In this review, we discuss MS principles and instrumentation as well as approaches in MS-based proteomics, which have been employed in the development of potential biomarkers. Furthermore, the challenges in validation of MS biomarkers for their use in clinical practice are also reviewed.

Keywords: mass spectrometry, proteomics, cancer biomarkers