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  • Asturian researchers find new biomarkers for early detection of pancreatic cancer

    June 25, 2015

    The work, published in the ‘Nature' journal, proves that these tumor cells produce exosomes with a specific protein (GPC1), which detect the presence of a malignant tumor

    Doctors Agustín Fernández (IUOPA) and Mario Fernández Fraga (CINN), members of the research group

    An international group of researchers, led by the University of Harvard and joined by scientists of the Center for Research in Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology (CINN) of the University of Oviedo, CSIC and Principado, and also of the University Institute for Oncology (IUOPA), have identified a new biomarker for the early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is difficult to diagnose. In this work, published in Nature, researchers have found that pancreatic cancer cells produce exosomes with a specific protein.

    Exosomes are vesicles (kind of corpuscles which unlike cells, are extra-cellular and smaller) and which are formed from the cells themselves, according to one of the researchers of this work, Mario Fernández Fraga, scientist at CINN, joint center of the University of Oviedo. These vesicles contain genetic material (DNA and RNA) and other molecules like proteins and lipids which show the state of cells from which they were formed. Once produced, they exosomes may be released into the blood-stream, reach distant organs and alter the cells in those organs. The study proves that pancreatic tumor cells produce exosomes containing the glypican-1 protein (GPC1).

    The research has been conducted in mice and 190 patients with pancreatic cancer and 100 healthy donors". The presence of GPC1 in blood allows distinguishing patients with no disease or with benign pancreatic diseases from patients with pancreatic cancer", explains Doctor Mario Fernández Fraga. "This may help diagnose pancreatic cancer", adds the researcher, who has stated that these exosomes with GPC1 protein are "detectable in blood".

    One of the major problems of this type of tumors is that they are very difficult to diagnose in early stages, even with a magnetic resonance. For the study and identification of the protein in the exosomes from tumor lines, experts used proteomic and flow cytometry to detect the protein in the patients' serum. According to Doctor Agustín Fernández, from the IUOPA, "this study proves that detection of exosomes containing GPC1 protein in the blood-stream of patients suffering from pancreatic cancer may be used as a non-invasive diagnosis tool, to detect pancreatic cancer in its first stages".

    Doctor Mario Fernández Fraga has recently become a member of the Research Center for Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology (CINN), where he is the director of the Department of Nanomedicine. The research lines implemented in the laboratory, are related to two main axes, "on the one hand the development of nanoparticles for the administration of anti-tumor epigenetic medicines and on the other hand the identification of epigenetic changes in response to nanomaterials, which is especially important, as one of the most important aspects of the use of nanomaterials in biomedicine is related to the effects they may have on the organism ", doctor Fernández Fraga explains.

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    Structure of the Glycipan 1 protein. Creative Commons License

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