Background Inflammation is one of the major hallmarks of cancer. This study was designed to profile a panel of inflammatory mediators in gastric adenocarcinoma (GA) and to identify their potential differences separately in metastatic and non-metastatic patient subgroups. Methods Serum samples from 216 GA patients and 333 healthy controls from China were analyzed for six proteins using the Luminex multiplex assay. Results The serum levels for all the six proteins were significantly elevated in metastatic GA compared to non-metastatic GA. Two acute phase proteins (SAA and CRP) and a CXC chemokine (GRO) were significantly elevated in metastatic GA (p <0.01) but smaller changes were observed in non-metastatic GA compared to healthy controls. OPN is moderately increased in non-metastatic GA (2.05-fold) and more severely elevated in metastatic GA (3.34-fold). Surprisingly, soluble VCAM1 and AGP were significantly lower in both non-metastatic and metastatic GA patients compared to controls. Several individual proteins were shown to possess moderate diagnostic value for non-metastatic GA (AUC = 0.786, 0.833, 0.823 for OPN, sVCAM1 and AGP, respectively) and metastatic GA (AUC = 0.931, 0.720, 0.834 and 0.737 for OPN, sVCAM1, SAA and CRP, respectively). However, protein combinations further improve the diagnostic potential for both non-metastatic GA (best AUC = 0.946) and metastatic GA (best AUC = 0.963). The protein combination with best AUC value for both comparisons is OPN+sVCAM1+AGP+SAA. Conclusions These results suggest that several serum proteins are directly related to the severity of gastric cancer. Overall, stronger associations are observed with metastatic than non-metastatic GA as the protein changes are greater with the metastatic status. A combination of these serum proteins may serve as non-invasive markers to assess the severity status and stage of gastric cancer.
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