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In the journal Cell Chemical Biology, researchers led by Biochemistry and Biophysics Associate Professor and Faculty Director, Quantitative Proteomics Center for Disease Marker Discovery, Xian Chen, PhD, report on potential prognostic tool that could be used to identify high-risk patients within particular subtypes of breast cancer.

Xian Chen, PhD

UNC researchers and their collaborators have developed a new method to discover personalized cancer biomarkers for use in precision prognosis.

In the journal Cell Chemical Biology, researchers report on potential prognostic tool that could be used to identify high-risk patients within particular subtypes of breast cancer.

“Patients who are diagnosed with the same subtype of breast cancer can have dramatically different clinical outcomes,” said Xian Chen, PhD, an associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics. “There are few markers available to precisely distinguish these patient sub-populations with different prognoses within a single subtype. We were looking for new markers to help us better predict treatment benefit and/or outcome with patient-specific or individualized precision.”

In their study, researchers drew upon “alternative splicing,” a phenomenon in which cells cut, or splice, particular genome areas in different ways to make new arrangements. With these different arrangements, the cell can produce different proteins from original genome, depending on how it’s differentially arranged. While this occurs in normal cells, emerging evidence show that cancer cells can take advantage of alternative splicing to help them grow or proliferate. Researchers used this concept to develop a method of sorting breast cancer cells according to the differences in certain proteins known as trans-factors that occurred in different breast cancer subtypes.

“Aberrant alternative splicing is a major hallmark of cancer, where RNA cis-acting splicing regulatory elements, such as intronic splicing enhancers, interact with particular trans-acting proteins, or trans-factors, to coordinately elicit the control of alterative splicing,” Chen said. “What we found is that in different breast cancer subtypes, the composition of trans-factors is different.”

Read the full article at UNC Vital Signs

In addition to Chen, other authors include Li Wang, John A. Wrobel, Ling Xie, DongXu Li, Giada Zurlo, Huali Shen, Pengyuan Yang, Zefeng Wang, Harsha P. Gunawardena, Qing Zhang and Xian Chen.

The study was supported by grants from N.C. TraCS TTSA Phase I, the Chinese Science 973 fund, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Cancer Institute Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium. The researchers filed a provisional patent for their finding, and Chen is the founder of a related company called TransChromix LLC.

Story courtesy of Laura Oleniacz, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

To submit a news story contact: Carolyn M. Clabo, UNC Biochemistry & Biophysics Communications.