such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
In order to provide the most effective treatments for cancer patients,
it is essential to develop methods of sensitive and specific early
detection of the disease. A team of scientists from the NIBRT
Dublin-Oxford Glycobiology Laboratory at UCD has developed a system
which aims to pinpoint potential "biomarkers" of early forms of the
disease. They do this by looking at the structures of specific sugar
molecules which are attached either to proteins made by cancerous cells
or to proteins involved in the host response.
It is hoped that the availability of such cancer biomarkers would
also allow disease progression and response to therapy to be monitored
more accurately than is currently possible. Professor Pauline Rudd, who
is leading the team, will be presenting some of their results on July
10th at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in
It is known that cancer cells not only have different sets of
proteins from normal human cells, but that their proteins have changes
in the types and numbers of sugar molecules that are attached to them.
Dr Rudd and her colleagues believe that being able to detect these
changes holds the key to developing a new approach for diagnosing
"We have found that there are alterations in sugars attached to
proteins in blood serum from all cancers we have looked at, and some of
these appear to be early markers of the disease processes. What is
more, we have been able to isolate several sugar-linked variants of
particular proteins which are associated with different types of
cancer, including prostate, pancreatic and ovarian and breast cancers,"
she reveals. "In the long term, we envisage that by finding more
specific sugar variants, we will be able to use combinations of these
as biomarkers to allow very accurate early diagnosis of particular
cancers". These techniques could act alongside or even replace physical
methods, such as scanning, which are less dependable for early
In order to detect differences between cancerous and normal cells,
the scientists are developing a robotic technique to analyse the
sugars. "Sugars are removed from the proteins and then broken down into
very small components using enzymes. These fragments can be
individually characterised leading to the formation of a 'fingerprint'
for each sugar we analyse," Professor Rudd explains.
"By comparing the fingerprints of sugars from serum or individual
proteins from cancer patients with those of disease-free people, we can
find sugars which differ slightly between the two - these are the ones
that are being tested as potential biomarkers. We are also refining a
statistical analysis program which will enable more detailed
examination of the data. As our method is high-throughput, we hope to
be able to identify a large number of markers which can be taken
forward for further testing and then clinical trials, leading to their
potential use in both diagnosis and monitoring of cancer progression."
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