Researchers shed tears for cancer biomarkers

Mivision, an optical industry trade publication, tells us about a search for biomarkers within tears that could indicate diseases such as breast cancer. The research is being led by Mark Willcox, chief scientific officer at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia. The group, funded by the Australian Research Council, is studying whether proteins contained within tears change at the onset of diabetes, prostate cancer and breast cancer.

"We believe that the proteins expressed in tears may change during disease processes, and these changes could be useful in monitoring those at risk of getting disease, the progression of the disease, and the effectiveness of therapies to treat the disease," the researchers said in a statement appearing on Mivision.

The group writes that traditional prognostic markers--such as age at diagnosis, tumor size, hormonal receptor status and tumor grade--are not precise enough. "Molecular markers that can potentially be used to identify small lesions that are not visible with imaging techniques could provide an opportunity to treat breast cancer early, before it invades surrounding tissue, the researchers wrote.

Tears, specifically, are well-suited for the biomarker search, say the researchers, because they are easily and noninvasively collected and can be gathered multiple times to monitor cancer progression or regression. Also, tear proteins and peptides tend to be relatively small in size, more stable and less complex than those in serum.

- read more at Mivision