Biomaterials, 2018, 188, 118-129

A novel scavenging tool for cancer biomarker discovery based on the blood-circulating nanoparticle protein corona

Marilena Hadjidemetriou, Zahraa Al-Ahmady, Maurizio Buggio, Joe Swift, Kostas Kostarelos*

The prominent discrepancy between the significant investment towards plasma biomarker discovery and the very low number of biomarkers currently in clinical use stresses the need for novel discovery technologies. The discovery of protein biomarkers present in human blood by proteomics is tremendously challenging, owing to the large dynamic concentration range of blood proteins. Here, we describe the use of blood-circulating lipid-based nanoparticles (NPs) as a scavenging tool to comprehensively analyse the blood circulation proteome. We aimed to exploit the spontaneous interaction of NPs with plasma proteins once injected in the bloodstream, known as protein corona and to facilitate the discovery of previously unreported biomarker molecules for cancer diagnostics. We employed two different tumor models, a subcutaneous melanoma model (B16-F10) and human lung carcinoma xenograft model (A549) and comprehensively compared by mass spectrometry the in vivo protein coronas formed onto clinically used liposomes, intravenously administered in healthy and tumor-bearing mice. The results obtained demonstrated the ability of blood-circulating liposomes to surface-capture and amplify low molecular weight (MW) and low abundant tumor specific proteins (intracellular products of tissue leakage) that could not be detected by plasma analysis, performed in comparison. Most strikingly, the NP (liposomal) corona formed in the xenograft model was found to consist of murine host response proteins, as well as human proteins released from the inoculated and growing human cancer cells. This study offers direct evidence that the in vivo NP protein corona could be deemed as a valuable tool of the blood proteome in experimental disease models to allow the discovery of potential biomarkers.