Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a novel method for tracking metastatic cancer cells throughout the body, which may help diagnose cancer sooner and give patients with additional treatment options in the future.
Dr. Annette Khaled’s laboratory published in the most current edition of PLOS ONE that they employed a protein complex called chaperonin as a novel marker for cancer cells in the blood, providing a clearer indication of cancer progression. Using the new marker, UCF scientists were able to discover more cancer cells in the blood, a method known as liquid biopsy, which might help patients with breast and lung cancer better monitor their condition.
Cancer celblood and Protein
To survive and spread throughout the body, cancer cells require a huge number of proteins. The chaperonin complex allows proteins to fold into functional, three-dimensional structures. Cancer cells cannot develop in the absence of the complex proteins necessary. All cells include the chaperonin complex.
Cancer cells, on the other hand, have considerably greater amounts because “cancer cells are ravenous for protein,” as Dr Khaled explains. In recent years, Dr. Khaled has discovered the chaperonin complex as a crucial indication of cancer severity and has created nanoparticle-based therapeutics to seek out and kill the chaperonin complex in cancer cells. If this protein-folding pathway is absent, cancer cells hunger and perish.
“The more sophisticated the chaperonin, the more advanced the malignancy,” noted Dr. Khaled. “When we employ the chaperonin complex to identify cancer cells in the blood, we receive a signal that the disease is spreading. Using the chaperonin complex to detect cancer cells in blood is a unique non-invasive diagnostic tool.”
Cancer indicators in the blood are frequently based on epithelial characteristics in cells that line the body’s surfaces where tumours develop. However, such indicators for detecting cancer cells in the blood are limited, according to Dr. Khaled, and give little information about the malignancy itself. “Cancer cells discharged into the blood might come from any area of the tumour and survive for only a few hours.”
The chaperonin complex, a marker that detects hazardous cancer cells circulating in the blood, might inform clinicians whether a patient is relapsing or not responding to therapy.
Dr. Khaled is the Director of the Division of Cancer Research at the College of Medicine. Her investigation began with the use of blood and tissues from patients with metastatic breast cancer being treated at Orlando Health’s UF Cancer Center to see whether the chaperonin complex was superior to standard markers for detecting cancer cells in the blood. She then tested this hypothesis on blood from lung cancer patients, revealing that the chaperonin complex identified more lung cancer cells than normal liquid biopsy procedures.