Improving diagnosis of cancer by detecting protein-sugar structures

Researchers report in the October 2007 issue of Molecular & Cellular Proteomics that they 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

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with over 11,900 members in the United States and internationally. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, nonprofit research institutions and industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions.

Founded in 1906, the Society is based in Bethesda, Maryland, on the campus of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The Society's purpose is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through publication of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Lipid Research, and Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific work force.

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