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New cell imaging method identifies aggressive cancer cells early

Fluorescence that illuminates a specific protein within a cell's nucleus may be a key to identifying cancer virulence and to developing individualized treatment, according to researchers at Purdue University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The scientists created a technique that automatically locates and maps proteins involved in regulating cell behavior, said Sophie Lelivre, Purdue assistant professor of basic medical sciences. The research results have for the first time made it possible to verify the distinction between multiplying cells that are harmless and those that are malignant.

Lelivre and co-corresponding author on the study, David Knowles of the national lab, used human mammary cells to analyze nuclear protein distribution that shifted depending on whether a cell was malignant, had not yet developed a specific function or was a normally functioning mature mammary cell.

"When you look at cells that don't yet have a specific function - aren't differentiated, compared to fully differentiated cells, which are now capable of functioning as breast cells - the organization of proteins in the nucleus varies tremendously," Lelivre said. "Then looking at how the proteins in malignant cells are distributed, it's a totally different pattern compared to normal differentiated cells."

The research team's study on the imaging technique and its use in 3-D mapping and analysis of nuclear protein distribution is published this week online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ultimately, the scientists want to use the technique to determine not only if a lesion is malignant but also the exact kind of cancer, how likely it is to spread and the most appropriate treatment for a particular patient.

"The major problem exists in the pre-malignant stages of abnormal cells in determining whether cancer will develop, what type and how invasive it will be," Lelivre said. "The decision then is whether to treat or not to
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Contact: Susan A. Steeves
ssteeves@purdue.edu
765-496-7481
Purdue University
6-Mar-2006


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