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Detecting breast cancer's fingerprint in a droplet of blood
Date:4/5/2012

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of successful treatment and long-term survival. However, early cancer diagnosis is still challenging as testing by mammography remains cumbersome, costly, and in many cases, cancer can only be detected at an advanced stage. A team based in the Dept. of Biomedical Engineering at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine has developed a new microfluidics-based microarray that could one day radically change how and when cancer is diagnosed. Their findings are published in the April issue of the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.

For years, scientists have worked to develop blood tests for cancer based on the presence of the Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA), a protein biomarker for cancer identified over 40 years ago by McGill's Dr. Phil Gold. This biomarker, however, is also found in healthy people and its concentration varies from person to person depending on genetic background and lifestyle. As such, it has not been possible to establish a precise cut-off between healthy individuals and those with cancer.

"Attempts have been made to overcome this problem of person-to-person variability by seeking to establish a molecular 'portrait' of a person by measuring both the concentration of multiple proteins in the blood and identifying the signature molecules that, taken together, constitute a characteristic 'fingerprint' of cancer," explains Dr. David Juncker, the team's principal investigator. "However, no reliable set of biomarkers has been found, and no such test is available today. Our goal is to find a way around this."

Dr. Mateu Pla-Roca, the study's first author, along with members of Juncker's team, began by analyzing the most commonly used existing technologies that measure multiple proteins in the blood and developing a model describing their vulnerabilities and limitations. Specifically, th
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Contact: Chris Chipello
christopher.chipello@mcgill.ca
514-398-4201
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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