Navigation Links
Molecular fingerprints point the way to earlier cancer diagnosis and more targeted treatment
Date:3/23/2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. Metabolites are molecular fingerprints of what your cells are up to and Dr. Arun Sreekumar wants to know the impression made by cancer.

You've likely heard about metabolites; your physician probably screens for some known ones such as triglycerides or cholesterol at your annual physical. Scientists suspect we have about 3,000 metabolites that come from our food or are synthesized from different compounds in our bodies.

Dr. Sreekumar, a cancer researcher at the Medical College of Georgia Cancer Center, wants those screens of the blood or urine to also detect early signs of cancers such as leukemia, bladder, kidney and breast when the chance for cure is best.

He's already begun to identify metabolites that indicate not only the presence of prostate cancer, but its aggressiveness, a tool that could help tailor optimal treatment. The search began in men at risk: those with elevated prostate specific antigen, or PSA, levels. A PSA test along with a digital rectal exam is today's standard for prostate screening so physicians typically do both in men age 50 and older. But PSA levels are actually better at helping determine if prostate cancer has returned, Dr. Sreekumar says.

Elevated levels of PSA, a protein, are not always predictive of cancer, which means a lot of men get unnecessary biopsies. PSA measurements also can't distinguish between tumors that have a good outcome versus those with a poor one.

"The physician does not really have the tools in hand to really say that this tumor will spread to other organs or not." says the Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar. "We want to find clinical markers that supplement PSA."

Aggressiveness is a major factor in prostate cancer treatment. In fact some men with slow growing disease likely won't even need treatment. So he wants to provide a complement of biomarkers that accurately diagnose and categorize the disease then help monitor success of treatment. These early studies indicate a urine test may one day be possible to do just that.

He and colleagues at the University of Michigan reported in the Feb. 12 issue of Nature what appears to be one of the first metabolites implicated in cancer invasion. They looked at 1,126 metabolites in 262 samples taken from men with high PSA levels. They consistently found elevated levels of the amino acid sarcosine in the prostate tissues of men with cancer; levels were highest in what appeared to be the most aggressive tumors.

Sarcosine, a modified form of the amino acid glycine, was a known entity but its function was unclear. Scientists thought it might be a dumping ground for excess methyl groups needed to enable chemical changes of genes, proteins and other body components that can affect what and how much they do.

This process called methylation can be a good thing like when it's helping an embryo develop but when it goes badly, it can cause disease such as cancer. While sarcosine's dumping role seemed to protect from cancer, the Michigan scientists found its action actually helps induce tumors. In fact, when they added it to prostate cancer cells, the cells became more aggressive. Exactly how that process works is still under study but the findings were pretty consistent.

"When we looked at patients with metastatic disease, sarcosine levels were sky high compared to patients with localized tumors," says Dr. Sreekumar. "It's enabling invasion."

Because cancer and people are both very heterogenous, measures need to be taken in larger population samples, he says. Also, they found a small group of patients with negative biopsies and high sarcosine levels. "We don't know how many of them have missed cancer," says Dr. Sreekumar who joined the MCG faculty in February.

These are among the reasons he believes in strength in numbers. "In the real world of biomarkers, you want 100 percent sensitivity. If the patient has cancer, you want to pick it up. We need to have a kind of multiplex test where you can test for say10 different entities and have a greater confidence that what you are stating about the tumor is true. Our goal is to develop such a panel and research on sarcosine is a first step toward achieving this."

In his new position at MCG, he's looking to expand the number of metabolites known to be predictive of prostate and other cancers. In prostate cancer, he's beginning with follow up on other metabolites identified in the Michigan study in which researchers identified a total of six metabolites, including sarcosine, linked to increased tumor progression. A total of 89 metabolites were different in metastatic prostate cancer compared to localized disease.

He's excited about what metabolites will one day tell cancer physicians and patients but adds that they are just a piece of what our bodies can tell us about a potential cancer growing inside. Scientists also need to continue to look at genes expressed by tumors and the proteins expressed by those genes to get the bigger picture. "It's basically a systems approach you need to take," he says.

The young scientist has worked with all those pieces in his relatively short career. He started his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan in1999, when the ability to look at gene expression was new. With his mentor, Dr. Arul M. Chinnaiyan, director of Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, Pathology Research Informatics and Cancer Bioinformatics at Michigan, he helped develop the next step: the ability to look at expression of hundreds of proteins at a time, instead of a handful, an important advance in light of the fact that there are about 1 million proteins. Recently they were among the first to venture into the world of metabolites, which are made by proteins.

"Previous technology was looking at a cell from a narrow perspective and cells never act in isolation, proteins never act in isolation, they always form complexes, act in pathways," Dr. Sreekumar says.

His inspiration to follow those pathways is a fellow Ph.D. student who died too young and quickly of an aggressive leukemia and the fact that cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide.


'/>"/>

Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. New molecular regulators of hyperthyroidism and goiter
2. Carnegie Mellon scientists investigate initial molecular mechanism that triggers neuronal firing
3. UC health news: molecular pathway may predict chemotherapy effectiveness
4. New molecular clock from LLNL and CDC indicates smallpox evolved earlier than believed
5. Story ideas from Molecular & Cellular Proteomics
6. Lets talk -- new paradigms in the research of the biomolecular composition of water
7. Scientists unveil structure of molecular target of many drugs
8. Potential new therapeutic molecular target to fight cancer
9. NIH selects LIAI for major study on allergy molecular causes and possible treatments
10. Pennsylvania Hospital surgeon receives grant to develop molecular cardiac surgery
11. Leading cause of death in preemies might be controlled by resetting a molecular switch
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Molecular fingerprints point the way to earlier cancer diagnosis and more targeted treatment
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 The ... Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, ... Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion ... and 2022. The base year considered for the study ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 24, 2017 The Controller General of Immigration from ... Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the ... Continue Reading ... ... Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the IAIR ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... The report "Gesture Recognition and Touchless Sensing Market by Technology (Touch-based ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to be worth USD ... 2022. Continue Reading ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , Oct. ... Cancer Research, London (ICR) and University ... SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple myeloma ... MUK nine . The University of Leeds ... partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform the ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 2017 , ... San Diego-based team building and cooking events company, Lajollacooks4u, has ... The bold new look is part of a transformation to increase awareness, appeal to ... period. , It will also expand its service offering from its signature gourmet cooking ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates announced ... at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... residential home security market and how smart safety and security products impact ... Parks Associates: Smart Home ... "The residential security market has ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... DIEGO , Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech ... biological mechanism by which its ProCell stem cell ... critical limb ischemia.  The Company, demonstrated that treatment ... amount of limbs saved as compared to standard ... the molecule HGF resulted in reduction of therapeutic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: