A recent study led by Nagoya University in Japan has made an exciting breakthrough in the field of ovarian cancer detection. Using a unique technology involving nanowires coated with a polyketone material, the research team successfully identified three previously unknown membrane proteins associated with ovarian cancer. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, present a novel detection method that could greatly improve the identification of this challenging disease.
Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to detect in its early stages when effective treatment is most feasible. To address this issue, researchers have focused on identifying new biomarkers, such as extracellular vesicles (EVs) and exosomes, which are small proteins released by tumors. These proteins can be isolated from bodily fluids like blood, urine, and saliva, making them promising candidates for cancer detection. However, the lack of reliable biomarkers specific to ovarian cancer has hampered progress in this area.
Led by Akira Yokoi from Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine and Mayu Ukai from the Institute for Advanced Research, the research group extracted both small and medium/large EVs from high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC), the most prevalent type of ovarian cancer. They employed liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the proteins present in these EVs.
Initially, the researchers faced challenges during the validation of the identified proteins. Yokoi explained, “We had to try a lot of antibodies before we found a good target. It became evident that the small and medium/large EVs contained distinct molecules. Further investigation revealed that small EVs are more suitable as biomarkers compared to the medium and large EVs. We identified the membrane proteins FRα, Claudin-3, and TACSTD2 in the small EVs associated with HGSC.”
Having successfully identified these proteins, the researchers then explored whether they could capture EVs in a manner that would enable the detection of cancer. For this purpose, they collaborated with nanowire specialist Takao Yasui from Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Engineering and Dr. Inokuma from the Japan Science and Technology Agency to develop polyketone chain-coated nanowires (pNWs). This innovative technology proved effective in separating exosomes from blood samples.
Yokoi reflected on the challenges faced during the creation of the polyketone-coated nanowires, saying, “We experimented with three or four different coatings for the nanowires. Although using polyketones as a coating material was a completely new approach, it turned out to be a perfect fit.”
“Our findings demonstrate the utility of each of the three identified proteins as biomarkers for HGSCs,” Yokoi stated. “These diagnostic biomarkers have the potential to serve as predictive markers for specific therapies. As a result, doctors can optimize their treatment strategies for ovarian cancer, thereby facilitating personalized medicine.”
The discovery of these membrane proteins and the development of the pNW technology represent significant advancements in ovarian cancer research. This breakthrough offers hope for improved early detection and tailored treatment approaches, ultimately leading to better outcomes for patients.
Source: Nagoya University