Studies Show New Methods for Early Diagnosis of Breast Cancer and Prediction of
Its Spread in Women's Health Issue of Clinical Chemistry
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two new papers in the
"Advancing Women's Health" issue of Clinical Chemistry, the journal of AACC,
show for the first time that measuring the amount of certain protein fragments
and microRNAs in a woman's blood and breast tissue might enable the early
diagnosis of breast cancer or prediction of its metastasis, respectively.
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Cancer is the second leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.
However, women have a higher chance than men of being diagnosed with cancer
before the age of 60 due to breast cancer development. Metastases in breast
cancer's later stages cause the majority of deaths associated with the disease,
making early detection crucial to patient survival. Testing for the right
biomarkers--biological molecules whose presence indicates a disease--could
increase survival rates more than current screening methods such as mammography.
Until recently, however, scientists have discovered disappointingly few useful
A team of researchers led by Ye Hu, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College of
Cornell University, New York, has discovered several promising new biomarkers
that could revolutionize the way breast cancer is diagnosed. In their paper,
they show that levels of the enzyme carboxypeptidase N (CPN) are higher in
breast cancer tissue than in healthy tissues. This enzyme produces six protein
fragments, or peptides, that then enter the bloodstream. Hu's team found that a
rise in blood concentrations of these six peptides strongly correlates with
increases of CPN, which in turn indicates the presence of breast cancer.
"Our results represent a first demonstration, to our knowledge, that clearly
links the proteolytic activity of CPN, particularly at tumor sites, to the
cleavage patterns of its catalytic substrates in the blood," said Hu. "These
biomarkers show strong potential for the noninvasive and early diagnosis of
breast cancer. We advocate their use ... certainly to be detected and identified
before metastasis, and perhaps even before the tumor presents with any
observable characteristics commonly used in the clinic."
Another research team headed by Evi Lianidou, PhD, of the University of Athens,
Athens, Greece, set out to address the current inability to predict at the time
of breast cancer diagnosis whether a patient will experience a relapse or
metastasis. Many recent studies have shown that microRNAs (miRNAs), a type of
molecule that turns genes on and off, can play a critical role in the metastasis
process. Upon examining this further, Lianidou's team found that breast cancer
patients who experienced quick relapses tended to have high and low levels of
the microRNAs miR-21 and miR-205, respectively, in their tumor tissue. The team
also discovered a connection between low levels of miR-205 and reduced overall
Testing for these miRNAs or CPN-catalyzed peptides in early or potential breast
cancer patients could ensure that women at risk of metastasis receive
life-saving preventative treatment.
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Dedicated to achieving better health through laboratory medicine, the American
Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) brings together more than 50,000
clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists, and business
leaders from around the world focused on clinical chemistry, molecular
diagnostics, mass spectrometry, translational medicine, lab management, and
other areas of breaking laboratory science. Since 1948, AACC has worked to
advance the common interests of the field, providing programs that advance
scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise, and innovation. For more
information, visit www.aacc.org.
Clinical Chemistry is the leading international journal of clinical laboratory
science, providing 2,000 pages per year of peer-reviewed papers that advance the
science of the field. With an impact factor of 7.9, Clinical Chemistry covers
everything from molecular diagnostics to laboratory management.
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