September 30, 2010

New Biomarkers Detect Pancreatic Cancer at an Early Stage

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Researchers have identified biomarkers and protein signatures that are hallmarks of cancer at an early stage using aptamer-based proteomics array technology.

This novel technology would enable better clinical diagnosis for two of the most aggressive and deadly forms of cancer -- pancreatic and mesothelioma.  Moreover, it would provide insight into new therapeutic targets.

"Currently these cancers are detected at an advanced stage, where the possibility of cure is minimal," which Rachel Ostroff, Ph.D., clinical research director of SomaLogic Inc., was quoted as saying. "Detection of these aggressive cancers at an earlier stage would identify patients for early treatment, which may improve their survival and quality of life."

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.  Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related pulmonary cancer that causes an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 deaths per year worldwide.

Aptamers, discovered about 20 years ago, are nucleic acid molecules that bind to specific proteins.  SomaLogic has developed the next generation of aptamers, SOMAers (Slow Off-rate Modified Aptamers).  These next-gen aptamers have superior affinity and specificity, while enabling highly multiplexed proteomic platforms that concurrently identify and quantify target proteins in complex biological samples.

Ostroff and colleagues set out to determine if this proteomics technology could identify blood-based biomarkers for pancreatic cancer or mesothelioma in people diagnosed, but not yet treated, with cancer.

The group of researchers tested blood from participants in a control group who experienced symptoms that resembled cancer, yet in face were benign.  Their goal was to discover the biomarkers specific to those with cancer, which would then be used to identify these diseases at an early stage, where the potential for effective treatment is much higher than in disease that has progressed.

For both forms of cancer, the band of medical discoverers developed a signature with high accuracy for detection of each form of cancer.  The team also found high specificity, meaning few people without disease will be incorrectly diagnosed and therefore avoid superfluous tests or treatments.

"Validation studies are underway, which we hope will lead to the development of diagnostic tests that hold clinical benefits for patients," according to Ostroff.

SOURCE: The Fourth AACR International Conference on Molecular Diagnosis in Cancer Therapeutic Development, September 2010