Cancer diagnosis and treatment are very challenging public health issues. Each year, more than 1 million people in the US are diagnosed with cancer. Worldwide, there were more than 14 million new cancer cases reported in 2012. The death rate from cancer is also alarming. Cancer deaths account for 14.6% of all human deaths. In men, lung, prostate, colorectal and stomach cancers are most common. In women, breast, colorectal, lung, and cervical cancers are most common. In 2010, the cost of caring for cancer patients in the US was estimated to be $1.16 trillion. With advanced age, cancer risk increases, and as more people are living longer, the incidence rate is predicted to increase further, unless scientific discoveries lead to better preventive measures and new treatments or drugs for cancer.
Despite complexities and uncertainties about what causes the many forms of cancer, how to prevent cancer, what are the best diagnostic biomarkers, and what are the safest and most effective treatments for each type of cancer, physicians and scientists in the Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Resource are conducting basic and clinical research that will advance our knowledge and understanding in each of these important areas.
In conjunction with investigators in the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and many other Cancer Centers around the US, mass spectrometry has become an extremely valuable and sensitive analytical tool used to characterize, identify, and quantify proteins expressed by cancer cells, and found in blood, urine, blood cells, and tumors obtained from patients enrolled in many of the cancer clinical trials being conducted by the consortium of cancer centers. The unique ability of mass spectrometry to provide information about the amino acid sequence in proteins, characterize specific chemical modifications to these amino acids, and to discover new protein forms associated with cancer cell growth is being exploited in the Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Resource.
The proteins discovered using mass spectrometry represent potential diagnostic biomarkers or better predictors for patients who might develop a malignant form of cancer (a cancer that spreads throughout the body). These proteins can potentially reveal new insights into the cellular changes that cause cancer, and they may help physicians and scientists develop safer and more effective drugs to treat cancer. Most importantly, in combination with cancer gene information, protein expression data obtained using mass spectrometry can help physicians and scientists determine which available drug may be most effective for treating a specific type of cancer. Researchers in the Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Resource have contributed to this “personalized medicine” approach for several types of cancer including, breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, ovarian, and acute myeloid leukemia.
In conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, researchers in the Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Resource are using the most advanced mass spectrometry technologies to annotate and integrate DNA, RNA, and protein expression data from individual tumors, and they participate in nationwide efforts to standardize the mass spectrometry techniques used to analyze, characterize and identify proteins involved in cancer cell growth. Mass spectrometry plays an important role in helping scientists and patients learn more about cancer causes, prevention, diagnosis, and personalized treatment approaches.
For more information, link to CPTAC (http://proteomics.cancer.gov/programs/cptacnetwork) and the American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org/)