Molecular beacons highlight breast cancer metastases

Many breast cancer deaths are caused by metastases that are just too small to see easily, and so a biomarker that could spot these early and allow them to be treated could be vital in improving outcomes for these women. Chemists at Kalamazoo College in Michigan have created a test, based on molecular beacon technology, that they believe is simpler, faster and more accurate than the existing tests. Molecular beacons are short strands of genetic material that unwind and fluoresce when they find and bind to the target sequence. The researchers targeted prolactin inducible protein mRNA, a biomarker for breast cancer, and found that their test was both sensitive and specific, though it will need to be tested in further sets of samples before it can be used routinely. Abstract