Researchers at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute have discovered a potential cancer biomarker by detecting a specific protein in patients' blood. While the protein was first suspected to be a breast cancer biomarker, researchers have found elevated levels in skin, prostate and lung cancer patients as well. The biomarker, osteopontin, is a tumor antigen.
"Normally there is not a lot of this circulating in our blood, but when cancer occurs, the tumor cells start to make a variety of proteins that are abnormal and the biomarker is one of these proteins," said Lucy Liaw, a research scientist at the institute studying the biomarker.
Liaw and her colleagues hope that the biomarker could be used for early cancer detection, especially in patients with a high risk of developing breast cancer, thanks to a diagnostic test they are working on.
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Editor's note: This story was updated to include the name of the biomarker under investigation in Liaw's lab.