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Improving Cancer Diagnosis

Researchers have developed a new way of detecting the abnormal presence of complexes of sugars and proteins in the blood of cancer patients, thus providing a new tool for cancer diagnosis.

Many proteins on the surface of cells have sugars attached to them, which helps the cells bind with one another and communicate among one another. But in cancer, these cell surface proteins can have an abnormally high number of sugar molecules attached to them.

Martin R. Larsen and colleagues report a method that uses titanium dioxide to isolate the parts of the cell surface proteins that are attached to sialic acid, which is the “outside” portion of some of the sugars that are attached to these proteins. The method was used to compare the number of protein-sugar structures that contain sialic acid in the blood plasma of a control individual and a patient with advanced bladder cancer.

The scientists showed that the cancer patient’s blood contained a significantly higher number of these sialic acid-containing structures than the control individual.

This method is a promising way to diagnose cancer and other diseases with excess sialic acid-containing protein-sugar structures, the scientists conclude.

Article: “Exploring the Sialiome Using Titanium Dioxide Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry,” by Martin R. Larsen, Soren S. Jensen, Lene A. Jakobsen, and Niels H.H. Heegaard,  Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, October 2007 

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. October 2007.

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