In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer after lung cancer. According to a “first-of-its-kind” study published in Nature, researchers found protein “signatures” of genetic mutations that cause colorectal cancer, which will allow developments in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Senior author Daniel Liebler, PhD, and researchers at Vanderbilt University and six other institutions used advanced mass spectrometry techniques to accumulate proteomic, or protein, data from 95 colorectal tumor samples. First author Bing Zhang, PhD, said the researchers were presented with a daunting task of integrating existing data with proteomics data, but they discovered that gene or RNA abnormalities did not always “translate” into abnormal proteins. In addition, some amplified chromosomes in the tumor samples did not “translate” into amplified protein levels. However, when abnormalities appeared at the protein level, the effects were striking, which might mean that proteomics could potentially identify the most impactful genetic abnormalities that novel diagnostic tests and treatments could target. Proteomics might also help identify which patients should receive more aggressive therapy, such as chemotherapy after surgery. Through the results of the analysis, researchers separated five subtypes of colon cancer based on protein composition, and one of the subtypes was linked to poor prognosis.
A Vanderbilt University-led research team has identified protein “signatures” of genetic mutations that drive colorectal cancer, the nation’s second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer. I think it’s a very important advance in the field,” said senior author Daniel Liebler, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and director of the Jim Ayers Institute for Precancer Detection and Diagnosis at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.