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Proteins could help women avoid thyroid surgery
Date:9/12/2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. Dr. Paul Weinberger wants to make thyroid cancer diagnosis as simple and accurate as checking for high cholesterol.

About 30 percent of women have a thyroid growth in their lifetime, the vast majority of which is not cancer, said Weinberger, otolaryngologist at Georgia Health Sciences University. In about 80 percent of cases, physicians can rule out cancer based on the shape of biopsied thyroid cells.

It's the remaining 20 percent that are problematic: 75 percent are benign but there is no way to be sure without surgery.

"The vast majority of patients who get this indeterminate answer end up having at least part of their thyroid gland removed," Weinberger said. "And we end up saying afterward: 'Oh, good news, this was not cancer.'"

Weinberger wants to help women avoid unnecessary surgery with the help of a Young Investigator Combined Award from the American Head and Neck Society/American Academy Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

"That is the Holy Grail everybody is looking for: blood-based biomarkers of cancer," Weinberger said.

He's looking at two proteins, Galectin-3 and HBME-1, about which little is known other than they are found at elevated levels in thyroid cancer. While still a resident at GHSU, Weinberger was honored by the Head and Neck Society for his role in linking Galectin-3 to thyroid cancer. Three years ago GHSU and other centers started checking Galectin-3 levels as part a definitive cancer diagnosis in surgically removed thyroid tissue. More recently, HBME-1testing also was added.

But Weinberger believes those proteins could tell the tale much earlier as biomarkers in the few cells removed during a needle biopsy. Using super-sensitive mass spectrometry technology developed to detect trace amounts of drugs and other substances in forensic pathology and now used in major research centers, he'll examine the biopsied cells collected over three years f
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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