New technology could one day enable doctors to detect cancer almost immediately, even in the very early stages, by analyzing the different proteins expressed on cancer cells.
After using near infrared range emitting fluorophore to study protein binding, a Purdue University research team believes they are on the right track to develop a quick and accurate test to detect cancer in patients. “Pathogen or cancer cell identification often relies on culturing a sample, which can take several days,” Darci Trader, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in Purdue University’s College of Pharmacy, who led the research team, said in a statement. “We have recently developed a method to screen one-bead-one-compound libraries against biological targets such as proteins or antibodies.
“We are invested in this technology because of our passion to develop better screening techniques for a wide variety of diseases,” she added. “Cancer, in particular, has touched the lives of many of our friends and families, so being able to contribute to better detection methods is very special to us.”
The new test involves mixing a biological sample like cancer cells or blood plasma with a near infrared range emitting fluorophore. Allowing the protein to interact with small molecules enables researchers to measure the intensity of the light produced by the protein binding the molecule, indicating the presence of cancer cells or other pathogens in the body.
The new screening method could identify cancer cells in blood cells to expedite a diagnosis, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes in regards to cancer.
Current methods to detect cancer require specialized equipment and complex analysis to measure proteins binding small molecules. The process is generally only used to detect whether or not there is binding, but does not identify the extent of the binding.
Relatively strong binding between a small molecule and protein target is required to be considered a hit from an initial pool of screened molecules.
However, the Purdue method involves screening known interactions between proteins and small molecules and is sensitive enough to detect cancer in the very early stages. The activity of the biological target being tested also does not need to be known or monitored with the new technique, increasing the types of proteins that can be screened for.
“These labeled proteins provide significant signal at very low concentrations because of their fluorescence quantum yield,” the researchers write in the study. “This work revealed that we can detect proteins and antibodies interacting with a known binding partner at low nanomolar concentrations; binding is specific, and known binders to carbonic anhydrase can be detected and ranked.”
The researchers are currently working with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the new technology.
The study was published in ACS Combinatorial Science.