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Predicting Cancer Spread Before It’s Too Late

Peptide-coated gold clusters label protein that promotes tumor invasion and metastasis.

Janelle Weaver, Contributor
Friday, November 16, 2018


The primary cause of death for the vast majority of cancer patients is the spread of cancer through invasion of neighboring tissue or migration to other parts of the body. Diagnostic methods such as computed tomography and MRI can detect cancer invasion and metastasis, but often too late to save lives. One potential approach for assessing the risk of cancer spread is to measure levels of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases, which promote tumor invasion and metastasis by breaking down proteins normally found in the spaces between cells in tissues.

In a study published Oct. 25 in ACS Nano, researchers developed peptide-coated gold clusters that specifically target and fluorescently label membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP). After using these clusters to label MT1-MMP in tumor tissue sections, the researchers observed this protein via optical fluorescence microscopy and detected protein expression levels through mass spectrometry 2D imaging.

The researchers demonstrated that this approach can be used to assess the risk of tumor invasion and metastasis. Specifically, the expression level of MT1-MMP was well-correlated with tumor invasion and metastasis for lung and kidney cancer. Its accuracy was verified by CT/MRI molecular imaging of cancer patients and pathologic studies of tumor tissues. According to the authors, this method will have major benefits for clinical therapy and the prognosis of cancer patients