BACKGROUND Serum biomarkers can improve diagnosis and treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). However, the evaluation of potential new serum biomarker candidates is hampered by a lack of assay technologies for their clinical evaluation. Here we followed a hypothesis-driven targeted proteomics strategy for the identification and clinical evaluation of MPM candidate biomarkers in serum of patient cohorts. RESULTS Based on the hypothesis that cell surface exposed glycoproteins are prone to be released from tumor-cells to the circulatory system, we screened the surfaceome of model cell lines for potential MPM candidate biomarkers. Selected Reaction Monitoring (SRM) assay technology allowed for the direct evaluation of the newly identified candidates in serum. Our evaluation of 51 candidate biomarkers in the context of a training and an independent validation set revealed a reproducible glycopeptide signature of MPM in serum which complemented the MPM biomarker mesothelin. CONCLUSIONS Our study shows that SRM assay technology enables the direct clinical evaluation of protein-derived candidate biomarker panels for which clinically reliable ELISA's currently do not exist.