Houston Methodist-led team shows potential of early breast cancer blood Dx

Scientists from Texas and New York said they've made important progress developing a blood test that successfully screened for early breast cancer in mice and some human patients.

Researchers at Houston Methodist Research Institute, New York University Cancer Institute and other institutions produced the promising results, and they plan much more extensive clinical testing in early 2014. The journal Clinical Chemistry published details of their initial work.

The research team found that circulating peptides generated by the enzyme carboxypeptidase N (CPN) served as consistent signs of the onset and advance of breast cancer in their studies of both human patients and mice. CPN, they explained, modifies proteins in the body after they're first created, and previous work identified more active CPN in patients with lung cancer. They've built on that work by showing that CPN is both more active and more abundant in breast cancer. Their tools include nanotechnology and mass spectrometry that helps separate and spot superlow levels of CPN-generated proteins, thought to come from areas at or near cancer cells.

While CPN peptides were more numerous in both breast cancer patients and mice with the disease, CPN activity, they said, dropped over time in the mice. More work is needed, but researchers suspect that the test may work better to diagnose early-stage breast cancer than later stages of the disease.

Hopes for eventual success here are large, considering that current methods to detect breast cancer early are costly. Others are also on a quest to develop an inexpensive early-stage breast cancer test. Whoever gets there first will definitively make major waves.

- here's the release
- read the journal abstract

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