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Biological Sciences Division
Research Highlights

May 2008

Tissue proteomics targets blood test for breast cancer

Proteomics analysis of cancer cells from female breast tissue samples may identify blood-borne biomarkers that could make aggressive breast cancers detectable through a simple blood test.

Under a two-year project, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are collaborating with the Walter Reed-Windber Clinical Breast Care Project to find and compare the proteins of cancers that enable cells to maintain or spread the disease throughout the body. The research team is using samples from the 30,000-strong blood and tissue collection maintained by the Clinical Breast Care Project. They are looking for protein indicators of aggressive breast cancer in the tissue and plasma samples. Ultimately, they hope to find proteins in blood that could alert doctors to patients with aggressive forms of breast cancer.

The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory—a national scientific user facility at PNNL—houses the methods and instruments that, compared to other labs, enable PNNL researchers to study samples that are up to one thousand times smaller, analyze samples from more patients, and identify many more proteins, despite the low concentrations of biomarkers hidden in the noise of thousands of proteins.

The research team includes Dick Smith, Karin Rodland, David Camp, and Tao Liu all PNNL, and geneticist Richard Mural, chief scientific officer at Windber, and Col. Craig Shriver, head of the Clinical Breast Care Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The work is being funded by the Department of Defense and sponsored by the Clinic Breast Care Project through a Congressional Grant.

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