Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of most lethal malignancies with few known risk factors and biomarkers. Identification of disease biomarkers is critical for understanding the pathogenesis of this cancer and identifying high risk individuals for close surveillance. Several blood protein biomarkers have been linked to PDAC in previous studies, but these studies have assessed only a limited number of biomarkers usually in small samples. To identify novel circulating protein biomarkers of PDAC, we studied 8,280 cases and 6,728 controls of European descent from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium and the Pancreatic Cancer Case-Control Consortium, by using genetic instruments.

Protein quantitative trait loci (pQTLs) for 1,226 plasma proteins identified in a large INTERVAL study of 3,301 healthy European descendants were used as instruments to evaluate associations between genetically predicted protein levels and PDAC. For proteins showing a significant association, we further conducted conditional analysis with adjustments for previously identified risk variants to assess whether the observed associations between genetically predicted protein concentrations and PDAC risk were independent of the risk variants identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Furthermore, for the proteins that were associated with PDAC risk, we performed an enrichment analysis of the genes encoding these proteins to examine whether they are enriched in specific pathways, functions or networks.

We observed associations between predicted concentrations of 38 proteins and PDAC risk at a false discovery rate of < 0.05, including those of 23 proteins that showed a significant association even after Bonferroni correction (4.08 × 10−5). These include Histo-blood group ABO system transferase encoded by ABO, which has been previously implicated as a potential target gene of PDAC risk variant identified in GWAS. Eight of the identified proteins (Beta-crystallin B2, Dedicator of cytokinesis protein 9, VIP36-like protein, Erythrocyte band 7 integral membrane protein, Tensin-2, Transmembrane protease serine 11D, Alcohol dehydrogenase 1B, and C-X-C motif chemokine 10) were associated with PDAC risk after conditioning on previously reported pancreatic cancer risk variants (odds ratios ranged from 0.79 to 1.52, P-values from 1.28 × 10−3 to 6.47 × 10−4). Pathway enrichment analysis showed that the encoding genes for the implicated proteins were significantly enriched in cancer-related pathways, such as STAT3 and IL-15 production.

In conclusion, we identified 38 protein biomarker candidates for PDAC risk, which if validated by additional studies, may contribute to the etiological understanding of PDAC tumor development.

Citation Format: Jingjing Zhu, Xiang Shu, Xingyi Guo, Duo Liu, Jiandong bao, Roger Milne, Graham G Giles, Chong Wu, Mengmeng Du, Emily White, Harvey A Risch, Nuria Malats, Eric J. Duell, Phyllis J. Goodman, Donghui Li, Paige Bracci, Verena Katzke, Rachel E Neale, Steven Gallinger, Stephen Van Den Eeden, Alan Arslan, Federico Canzian, Charles Kooperberg, Brian Wolpin, Laura Beane-Freeman, Ghislaine Scelo, Kala Visvanatha, Christopher A. Haiman, Loïc Le Marchand, Herbert Yu, Gloria M Petersen, Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Alison P Klein, Laufey T Amundadottir, Qiuyin Cai, Jirong Long, Xiao-Ou Shu, Wei Zheng, Lang Wu. Associations between genetically predicted blood protein biomarkers and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma risk [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research 2020; 2020 Apr 27-28 and Jun 22-24. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2020;80(16 Suppl):Abstract nr 1200.