Open Access Research article

Upregulated expression of human neutrophil peptides 1, 2 and 3 (HNP 1-3) in colon cancer serum and tumours: a biomarker study

Jakob Albrethsen1*, Rikke Bøgebo1, Steen Gammeltoft1, Jesper Olsen2, Benny Winther1 and Hans Raskov3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Glostrup Hospital, 2600 Glostrup, Denmark

2 Surgical department D, Glostrup Hospital 2600 Glostrup, Denmark

3 Colotech ltd., Copenhagen Science Park Symbion, Fruebjergvej 3, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

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Citation and License

BMC Cancer 2005, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-8

Published: 19 January 2005



Molecular markers for localized colon tumours and for prognosis following therapy are needed. Proteomics research is currently producing numerous biomarker studies with clinical potential. We investigate the protein composition of plasma and of tumour extracts with the aim of identifying biomarkers for colon cancer.


By Surface Enhanced Laser Desorption/Ionisation – Time Of Flight / Mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF/MS) we compare the protein profiles of colon cancer serum with serum from healthy individuals and the protein profiles of colon tumours with normal colon tissue. By size exclusion chromatography, we investigate the binding of HNP 1-3 to high mass plasma proteins. By microflow we investigate the effect of HNP 1-3 on mammalian cells.


Human Neutrophil Peptides -1, -2 and -3 (HNP 1-3), also known as alfa-defensin-1, -2 and -3, are present in elevated concentrations in serum from colon cancer patients and in protein extracts from colon tumours. A fraction of HNP 1-3 in serum is bound to unidentified high mass plasma proteins. HNP 1-3 purified from colon tumours are lethal to mammalian cells.


HNP 1-3 may serve as blood markers for colon cancer in combination with other diagnostic tools. We propose that HNP 1-3 are carried into the bloodstream by attaching to high mass plasma proteins in the tumour microenvironment. We discuss the effect of HNP 1-3 on tumour progression.