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Major cancer study aims to identify protein markers for early-stage disease

gments of proteins identified in the research into recognizable molecules, and identifying patterns of proteins within given blood samples.

The need to standardize mass spectrometry is great. Currently, the technology produces varying results in different labs. Research in one lab may suggest certain proteins are associated with a given blood sample, while research in another lab may point to other proteins.

The capacity to detect proteins in fluids is of intense interest to cancer researchers because cancerous tumors "leak" proteins and other molecules into blood, urine and other accessible bodily fluids early on in their development.

This knowledge is already being applied in the clinic: Elevated levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) hint at the presence of prostate cancer, while elevated levels of cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) suggest possible cancer of the ovary or other organs. However, both tests have "false negatives" or "false positives," making them unreliable.

If mass spectrometry can be refined and standardized, scientists say, it could revolutionize the detection of cancer and lead to earlier interventions with current therapies -- surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy. The technique could also be used to monitor a cancer's response to treatment and to detect the recurrence of cancer after treatment.

"This is an extraordinarily exciting endeavor," says Fisher.

"We truly believe in this project, and that it is going to help people. We think that the methods we're proposing will work."

The UCSF component of this research initiative will be carried out in two phases. Initially, scientists will study blood samples from mice that have been transplanted with human breast cancer cells. Later they will study blood samples from patients with various stages of the actual disease.

The researchers will focus specifically on a phase in protein development known as "post-trans
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Source:University of California - San Francisco


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