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New alternative to biopsy detects subtle changes in cancer cells, Stanford study shows
Date:4/12/2009

evels of protein expression and degrees of phosphorylation. Analyzing repeated small samples from a tumor undergoing treatment may allow doctors to head off rogue cells at the pass before they have a chance to proliferate into a more resistant tumor or to identify patients likely to fail standard approaches to treatment.

Fan and Felsher collaborated with researchers from Palo Alto-based Cell Biosciences, which makes the machine used in this study, to separate cancer-associated proteins in narrow capillary tubes based on their charge, which varies according to modifications on the proteins' surface. Two versions of the same protein one phosphorylated and one not can be easily distinguished because they travel different distances in the tube. The researchers then used antibodies to identify the relative amounts and positions of the various proteins.

The scientists found that not only was the technique able to identify oncogene activation in cultured tumor cells, but it also worked well in small lymphoma samples drawn from laboratory mice with small, hollow needles. Furthermore, they were able to detect varying levels of expression of two common oncogenes in 44 of 49 lymphoma samples from human patients as compared with normal controls, and even distinguish some types of lymphomas from others.

Finally, they were able to detect subtle differences in phosphorylation in several other cancer-associated proteins. "Some of these proteins can exist as five or six phosphorylated variants," said Felsher. "With this technology we can see changes that occur in as little as 10 percent of the total protein pool. Now we have a tool that will really help us look at what's happening in cells over time."

"Surgical biopsies usually require general anesthesia and large amounts of tissue," agreed Fan. "If we can figure out how to go in with a needle and remove just a few cells for analysis, we could repeatedly assess how the tumor is responding to tre
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Contact: Krista Conger
kristac@stanford.edu
650-725-5371
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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