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Researchers develop specific tests to identify cancer biomarkers in dermatomyositis

Researchers from major universities in the U.S. have developed specific tests to identify cancer biomarkers in patients with dermatomyositis—a systemic inflammatory disease associated with increased risk of malignancy.

According to study findings published in the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism, the assays detect antibodies against anti-transcriptional intermediary factor-1 (TIF-1ã) and nuclear matrix protein NXP-2.

Patients with dermatomyositis experience muscle weakness, skin inflammation, and sometimes inflammation of the lung. Most patients with dermatomyositis have auto-antibodies circulating in their bodies that cause distinct clinical disease features.

Medical evidence suggests that these auto-antibodies in dermatomyositis patients stem from specific immune responses that shape various characteristics (phenotypes). In addition, up to 20% of those with dermatomyositis are at increased risk of malignancies.

"For the physician treating patients with dermatomyositis, identifying those at higher risk for cancer is a top priority," explains Dr. David Fiorentino from Stanford University in Redwood City, Cal. "Our team focused on creating specific tests to detect antibodies against two specific proteins and then testing if those antibodies can identify dermatomyositis patients at higher risk of cancer."

The team used both immunoblotting and immunoprecipitation techniques to detect antibodies against TIF-1ã and NXP-2 proteins. Blood analysis was performed on 111 patients from Stanford University Dermatology Clinic and 102 patients from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Myositis Center. Both groups were similar in gender and age at diagnosis.

Results show that 17% and 38% of subjects in the two cohorts combined had antibodies against NXP-2 and TIF-1ã, respectively. Using the specific assays, researchers found 83% of dermatomyositis patients with cancer had a reaction to NXP-2 or TIF-1ã. Further analysis indicates that cancer, older age, and male gender were linked to NXP-2 or TIF-1ã antibodies, with anti-NXP-2 specifically associated with cancer in men.

"Our findings confirm the link between cancer and age in dermatomyositis, with a sharp increase in frequency at roughly 60 years of age." concludes Dr. Fiorentino. "By determining the presence or absence of NXP-2 and TIF-1ã antibodies, we believe that this will aid clinicians in identifying those with the highest cancer risk."

This study is funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH grants: P30-AR-053503, KO8 K08AR054783, KO8 K08AR054783, RO1 AR-44684), the Scleroderma Research Foundation, Huayi and Siuling Zhang Discovery Fund and the Dorothy and Donald Stabler Foundation.

This study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatism. Media wishing to receive a PDF of the article may contact

Full citation: "Most Patients with Cancer-Associated Dermatomyositis have Antibodies To Nuclear Matrix Protein Nxp-2 or Transcription Intermediary Factor 1-Gamma." David F. Fiorentino, Lorinda S. Chung, Lisa Christopher-Stine, Lisa Zaba, Shufeng Li, Andrew L. Mammen, Antony Rosen and Livia Casciola-Rosen. Arthritis & Rheumatism; Published Online: September 3, 2013 (DOI: 10.1002/art.38093).

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About the Journal

Arthritis & Rheumatism is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and covers all aspects of inflammatory disease. The American College of Rheumatology is the professional organization whose members share a dedication to healing, preventing disability, and curing the more than 100 types of arthritis and related disabling and sometimes fatal disorders of the joints, muscles, and bones. Members include practicing physicians, research scientists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, and social workers. The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the ACR. For more information, please visit

About Wiley

Wiley is a global provider of content-enabled solutions that improve outcomes in research, education, and professional practice. Our core businesses produce scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising; professional books, subscription products, certification and training services and online applications; and education content and services including integrated online teaching and learning resources for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners.

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (NYSE: JWa, JWb), has been a valued source of information and understanding for more than 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. The Company's website can be accessed at

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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