Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 8, pp 2059–2065 | Cite as

Post-translational modifications in tumor biomarkers: the next challenge for aptamers?

  • Ana Díaz-Fernández
  • Rebeca Miranda-Castro
  • Noemí de-los-Santos-Álvarez
  • María Jesús Lobo-CastañónEmail author
Feature Article


Advances in proteomics have fueled the search for novel cancer biomarkers with higher selectivity. Differential expression of low abundant proteins has been the usual way of finding those biomarkers. The existence of a selective receptor for each biomarker is compulsory for their use in diagnostic/prognostic assays. Antibodies are the receptors of choice in most cases although aptamers are becoming familiar because of their facile and reproducible synthesis, chemical stability as well as comparable affinity and selectivity. In recent years, it has been reported that the pattern of post-translational modifications, altered under neoplastic disease, is a better predictive biomarker than the total protein level. Among others, abnormal glycosylation is attracting great attention. Lectins and antibodies are being used for identification and detection of the carbohydrate moiety with low level of discrimination among various glycoproteins. Such level of selectivity is critical to bring next-generation biomarkers to the clinic. Aptamers that can be rationally tailored for a certain molecule domain can become the golden receptor to specifically detect aberrant glycosylation at each protein or even at each glycosylation site, providing new diagnostic tools for early detection of cancer.

Graphical abstract

Aptamers may specifically differentiate normal from aberrant glycoproteins


Aptamers Cancer diagnostics Glycans Tumor biomarkers 



The authors acknowledge the support provided by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Project No. CTQ2015-63567-R), and the Principado de Asturias government (Project FC15-GRUPIN14-025, co-financed by FEDER funds).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have not conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dpto. Química Física y AnalíticaUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

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