In a recent article in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, UC Davis researchers report a promising strategy for discovering biomarkers that could be used to detect breast cancer.
Carlito Lebrilla, professor of chemistry, Suzanne Miyamoto, assistant research biochemist, and a team of collaborators used sophisticated technology to profile and compare the total glycans, or sugars, released from glycoproteins in various breast cancer cell lines, in blood samples of healthy women and women with breast cancer, and in blood samples from a mouse model of breast cancer.
The scientists found that similar breast cancer cell lines had similar glycan profiles, and that these profiles were distinct from the glycan profiles of a healthy cell line and a precancerous, ductal carcinoma cell line. Moreover, the researchers were able to distinguish patients with breast cancer from those without based on their glycan profiles.
Many more patient samples will need to be analyzed, but Lebrilla and Miyamoto hope their approach will enable them to identify glycan "signatures" of breast cancer that will lead to better diagnostic tests for the disease.