Purdue team makes breakthrough discovery in cancer research

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue University researchers made a breakthrough cancer discovery, which may soon be able to detect and monitor cancer without the need for invasive procedures. One expert says it has the potential to increase early detection and success battling cancer.

The study was led by biochemistry professor Andy Tao. He is a member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research led by Timothy Ratliff.

“It’s tremendously important to invest in research,” Ratliff said.

Purdue researchers found a way to identify proteins in blood plasma, correlating to the patient having cancer.

“They isolate these special little vesicles that are circulating in the blood and when they isolate those, then they can determine the pattern of these particular protein types. They’re phosphorylated proteins that are unique to the various cancers,” said Ratliff.

The blood samples used in the study are from 30 patients with breast cancer. But the team is hoping to expand their research.

“It’s applicable to all cancers,” Ratliff said. “We really think that each cancer will have a unique signature, and then we’ll ultimately be able to identify individual cancers.”

Ph.D. student I-Hsuan Chen is a research assistant in this investigation. She says the team found thousands of phosphoproteins in a blood sample.

“In the past we can, people can only see like, maybe 10 or 100 of phosphoproteins in the plasma,” she said. “But now we can see like almost 2,000.”

The team found 144 of these phosphoproteins were significantly elevated in cancer patients. They will now see how early the cancer can be detected.

“That’ll be part of the clinical studies going forward,” said Ratliff.

The next step is to validate the study by increasing the number of patients tested.