New early biomarker for several cancer diseases

2020-08-26

In a study including more than 400 hospital patients with 18 different cancer diagnoses, researchers have been able to show that EVP, extracellular vesicles and particles, could be used as biomarkers for several cancer diseases. The study has been led by researchers from among others IGP.

Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the world and today there is a lack of biomarkers that could be used to detect cancer before any symptoms have developed. EVPs, extracellular vesicles and particles, are small vesicles produced in our cells that are packed with cellular proteins before they are released in the circulation.

The research group now publishing new results, have previously shown that EVPs are important for cancer metastasis as they contain proteins that can signal to secondary organs such as the liver, lungs, skeleton and brain, and contribute to an altered microenvironment in these organs. The altered microenvironment then makes it possible for cancer cells that are spread from the primary tumour to attach and grow in the new, “primed” microenvironment. The new international study shows that EVPs, in addition to having a driving role for metastasis, also can function as biomarkers for cancer diseases.

Early indicator for cancer

“We hope that the EVP markers we have identified could be used as early indicators for cancer, and be included as a standard in routine in blood sampling. This way, knowledge about the cancer could be obtained before symptoms develop or before the tumours can be detected by X-ray or CT scans,” says Linda Bojmar, one of the main authors of the study and post doc at IGP and at Weill Cornell Medicine, USA.

In the present study the researchers have included more than 400 samples from patients with 18 different types of cancer, e.g. pancreas cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and several kinds of childhood cancers., and shown that EVPs can be used to diagnose cancer. According to the study, EVPs could also be used for cancer cases that are difficult to treat because no primary tumour has been identified. In these cases, EVP markers can be useful to distinguish different cancer types, thereby determining which cancer it is. The fact that the EVP markers are unique for the tumour cells and not present in the surrounding tissues is believed to protect healthy tissues from side effects when treatment is directed against these proteins.

Further studies with larger patient groups

“We will now move on to include even larger patient groups to be able to validate and confirm our results. We would like to collaborate with patients and hospitals in Sweden, to see if there are national, regional or genetic differences that affect the samples,” says Linda Bojmar.

The researchers participating in the study are from Weill Cornell Medicine, Uppsala University, Linköping University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA.

More information:
Paper in the journal Cell
Linda Bojmar’s research in Theresa Vincent’s group