Houston, TX – (WiredPRNews.com) Using new screening technology developed in their laboratory, researchers at Colorado-based SomaLogic, Inc., a privately held firm, have discovered that specific changes in the blood of patients suffering from mesothelioma may allow doctors to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage, thus delivering therapies that significantly prolong lives.
Mesothelioma, which occurs most often in the protective lining around the lungs as pleural mesothelioma (but can also occur in the linings around abdominal organs and the heart), is a cancerous disease which typically lies dormant for up to five decades before exploding into aggressive and highly lethal tumors.
Most victims are diagnosed only in advanced stages, and the typical prognosis is about a year to live. This often precludes any significant therapeutic or curative interventions like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which – singly or in combination – can improve breathing, reduce pain, and in some cases even extend lifetimes.
Presenting at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting in Denver, on September 28, Rachel Ostroff, Somalogic’s clinical research director, revealed that the company’s tests rely on aptamers, which tend naturally to adhere to proteins.
Using advanced technology, Somalogic has refined a process that makes aptamers attach themselves to specific proteins. Then, using a cohort of patients who had mesothelioma or pancreatic cancer, as well as a control group which had similar but non-malignant conditions like pancreatitis and lung fibrosis, the researchers used computer modeling algorithms to see if the groups had any significant biological differences in their blood-screen panels.
Researchers found that both types of cancer, mesothelioma and pancreatic, produced biological “footprints” that were highly individualistic when used in combination with the company’s aptamers as cancer detection tools.
Now, according to Ostroff, these biological footprints, or biomarkers, need to be validated in ongoing studies to make sure the results of the first tests were accurate and authentic, and that they can be reliably duplicated in diagnostic tests. As Ostroff noted, the discovery of biomarkers is much simpler than the process used to validate them.
SomaLogic’s new breed of aptamers (the first were discovered over two decades ago) are called SOMAmers (Slow Off-rate Modified Aptamers) have “superior affinity and specificity”, according to the company’s news release. It is these two traits in particular which make possible a highly complex platform of proteins and their attractors which can be used for both identification and quantification of targets.
Ostroff and her team of investigators now plan to look at several factors that might lead to inconclusive or false results, including how long a given sample had been shelved before testing. However, Ostroff and associates are encouraged by the fact that the high specificity of their SOMAmers means fewer incorrect diagnoses and, as a result, fewer unnecessary tests and procedures and more appropriate treatment.
In September of this year, SomaLogic, which develops proteomics systems and applications for use by researchers and clinicians, allowed global enterprise solutions company NEC Corporation to purchase an equity stake in the company to permit expansion into the arena of health information “to provide essential and actionable information to patients, doctors and researchers”, according to an NEC official.
The AACR is the world’s largest and oldest professional organization dedicated to the eventual eradication of cancer, and its yearly meetings – which attract more than 18,000 participants – are one method of advancing and disseminating cancer research developments, cancer treatments, and cancer care.