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Major cancer study aims to identify protein markers for early-stage disease

fter the code for a gene has been translated into a protein. Initially, the protein is a "naked scaffold," says Fisher, but over time it becomes decorated, much like a Christmas tree. This is the stage of "modification."

It is known, says Fisher, that cancer cells decorate proteins very sloppily. "We want to use this knowledge against cancer cells," she says, "working to purify these poorly decorated proteins so that we can identify them as biomarkers in blood samples."

Analyzing the complex data produced by mass spectrometry using advanced computing techniques a science known as bioinformatics -- will be critical for making sense of the information, says Fisher. Part of the challenge will be the need to piece together data on fragments of individual proteins, rather than whole molecules, a result of a limitation of mass spectrometry:

The instrumentation is not able to weigh an entire protein. The protein must first be cut, with an enzyme, into pieces. Once enough pieces of the puzzle are inputted into the database, it is expected that order will appear. The result could be the identification of biomarkers associated with early-stage cancer of the breast.


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Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
27-Sep-2006


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