Entries in Biomarkers (2)


Early Biomarker Identified for Pancreatic Cancer

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Scientists at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine have identified a new biomarker for pancreatic cancer.  The finding helps researchers move one step forward in creating therapeutic treatments for the potentially deadly disease.

Pancreatic cancer can grow without symptoms, so the tumor has often advanced in its stage of growth by the time it is found.  It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, and newly diagnosed patients have a median survival rate of less than a year, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Research.

"We found that a kinase [enzyme] called PEAK1 is turned on very early in pancreatic cancer," Jonathan Kelber, an author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in UCSD's department of pathology, said in a statement.  "This protein was clearly detected in biopsies of malignant tumors from human patients -- at the gene and the protein levels -- as well as in mouse models."

A kinase is an enzyme that helps to regulate cell function, and a biomarker is a general term for a substance in the body that is used to indicate some sort of biological state.  Researchers said the specific biomarker they identified acts as an "on" and "off" switch for cellular function.  It is needed for the cancer to grow and spread.

"This study is just one more piece in the puzzle; however, it is probably just a small piece, but still contributes to our understanding as to what drives pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Aaron Sasson, director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Center of Excellence at University of Nebraska Medical Center.  "The importance in understanding how pancreatic cancer develops is critical if we are ever going to develop effective treatments for this deadly disease."

Dr. Richard Alexander, associate chair of clinical research in the department of surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, praised the research, calling it "a beautifully conducted series of experiments that convincingly show that a protein found in pancreatic cancer cells, PEAK1, has an important role in the progression and spread of pancreatic cancers."

"The authors are to be complimented for the rigor of their scientific work," he added.

Nevertheless, the data are preliminary and were observed under tightly controlled experimental conditions, so the extent to which the biomarkers will be relevant to patients has yet to be determined, Alexander noted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Researchers Find More Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s

Comstock/Thinkstock(MUNCHEN, Germany) -- The hunt is on in the research world to try to identify biomarkers of Alzheimer's before the symptoms of the disease become obvious -- all with the hope that early detection will lead to earlier treatment and possibly better outcome for the patients.  One area of interest has been the identification of plaque-related proteins in blood or spinal fluid.  

In a new study from Tachnische Universitat, the authors tested the levels of such proteins in 58 patients with mild cognitive impairment and then followed them for an average of three years. They found that those who went on to develop Alzheimer's had higher levels of two chemicals -- one a precursor to the material that forms the plaques -- than patients who did not progress to Alzheimer's.  

Interestingly, the protein that makes up the plaques and has previously been studied as a possible biomarker was not associated with progression to Alzheimer's.

The study's findings are published in the journal Neurology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio