A protein encoded by the gene glypican-1 (GPC1) present on cancer exosomes may be used as part of a potential non-invasive diagnostic and screening tool to detect early pancreatic cancer, potentially at a stage amenable to surgical treatment, according to a study at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Exosomes – tiny, virus-sized particles released by cancer cells, as well as by all normal cells studied, often contain DNA, RNA, and proteins. Scientists isolated and monitored GPC1-enriched circulating exosomes from the blood of pancreatic cancer patients, termed GPC1+ crExos. “GPC1+ crExos were detected in small amounts of serum from about 250 patients with pancreatic cancer with absolute specificity and sensitivity, importantly distinguishing patients with chronic pancreatitis from those with early- and late-stage pancreatic cancer,” said Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of Cancer Biology at MD Anderson.. Levels of GPC1+ crExos were significantly lower in patients following surgical removal of the tumor, said Dr. Kalluri, whose study results are published online on June 24, 2015 in Nature. The study examined crExos from healthy donors and breast and pancreatic cancer patients. Elevated GPC1+ crExos were seen in both cancers. The Nature article is titled “Glypican-1 Identifies Cancer Exosomes and Detects Early Pancreatic Cancer.” “GPC1+ crExos can be detected and isolated in blood samples that were stored in freezers almost 30 years ago, unlike circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that require large amounts of fresh blood,” said Dr. Kalluri. “DNA, RNA, and proteins can be isolated from cancer exosomes isolated from stored specimen for further genetic and biological analyses.
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