Research examines proteins for early breast cancer detection
October 28, 2011
Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are honoring October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, by continuing their search for better ways to detect and treat breast cancer.
Biomarkers could hold key to early detection of breast cancer
A comprehensive, collaborative research project is looking for protein biomarkers that can be used for early breast cancer detection with blood tests. Current detection methods — including mammograms and self-exams — typically find breast cancer after it's established. The goal is to find a method to diagnose cancer before it can grow. The project has employed advanced mass spectrometry techniques and a novel proteomics process to discover potential biomarkers. The researchers have narrowed their list from more than 2,000 proteins of interest to just 200 promising candidates. The suspect biomarker proteins were found in breast tissue and a liquid called nipple aspirate fluid, which is secreted by the ducts in female breasts. To identify the potential biomarkers, the researchers compared their own experimental data with previously published data on cancer genomes, among other methods. The 200 biomarker candidates are currently being tested and evaluated in patient blood samples. Scientists will further narrow their list of potential biomarkers so they can identify a handful of proteins to study in a clinical trial.
Three leading proteomics laboratories — at PNNL, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — joined forces for the project. This research is funded by Entertainment Industry Foundation's Women's Cancer Research Fund and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Proteins could help predict if breast cancer will spread
Scientists are exploring how breast cancer spreads and whether the hormonal changes women experience as they enter menopause could affect this process. The researchers are comparing breast tumor samples from both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women. In some of those women, the cancer had also spread to their lymph nodes. They're identifying proteins whose concentrations were significantly different between the women whose cancer had and hadn't spread. The researchers are also comparing their findings between women who have and haven't reached menopause. In three years, the researchers have identified about 200 proteins as potentially being involved in the spread of breast cancer.
PNNL is collaborating with the Windber Research Institute and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (now known as the Walter Reed National Military Center) for this project. The U.S. Department of Defense's Comprehensive Breast Care Program funded the research.
Tags: Fundamental Science, Health Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Proteomics