Detection of Pancreatic Cancer at an Early Stage is Now Possible with Identification of Glypican-1 Circulating Exosomes

Dr. Raghu Kalluri, MD, PhD, professor of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston and colleagues reported that Glypican-1 circulating exosomes could function as a screening test and a non-invasive diagnostic tool to identify pancreatic cancer at an early stage. Prior to conducting this study, Dr. Raghu Kalluri and his colleagues were aware that there is a lack of specific isolation and detection of cancer-cell-derived exosomes in the circulation, hence their research on Glypican-1 circulating exosomes. The study on Glypican-1 circulating exosomes was published in Nature last month.

The identification of Glypican-1, a cell surface proteoglycan that is richly found on cancer-cell-derived exosomes was identified through mass spectrometry analysis. Dr. Kalluri and colleagues started off first by isolating exosomes from non-tumorigenic cells, fibroblasts, and cancer cells utilizing ultracentrifugation. Further study revealed 48 proteins specific to cancer exosomes. Through mass spectrometry, Glypican-1 was identified and it was observed in a huge amount on cells derived from cancer exosomes. This Glypican-1 is present on exosomes from normal cells at low levels. With the usage of flow cytometry, Dr. Kalluri and colleagues managed to monitor and isolate Glypican-1 circulating exosomes from the frozen serum obtained from mice and patients with cancer. Results of their study showed that in patients with pancreatic cancer there were consistently higher levels of Glypican-1 circulating exosomes as compared with patients and healthy individuals with a benign pancreatic disease. Further details of the result can be found here.

Dr. Kalluri commented that with this discovery, he and his team have showed that with the detection of Glypican-1 circulating exosomes, it offers a faster method to detect cancer and its mutations. Clotilde Théry, PhD., of the Institut Curie, in Paris, France, uninvolved in the study stated that this study has a potentially huge implication on the treatment of pancreatic cancer as it allows clinicians to decide the best treatment options. Clotilde Théry further added that this study manage to show that circulating vesicles in the blood circulation can potentially be a source of reliable and specific diagnostic cancer biomarkers.


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