A new way to identify gastric carcinoma patients with high probability of develop a more aggressive form of disease has just been described on the latest issue of the journal Glycobiology.
Researchers have found that the peptide sequence* of mucins - a group of proteins expressed by epithelial cells -seemed to be directly associated with the expression of tumour markers linked to very severe gastric carcinomas. Because peptide sequences are genetically determined, not only this discovery can allow doctors to predict which gastric carcinoma patients are more at risk, but also, one day, might help to predict the illness even before the appearance of signs. Furthermore, mucins are not limited to gastric carcinomas but are also found in a multitude of other cancers what makes the discovery even more exciting.
Mucins are large glycosylated (meaning that they have several sugars attached) proteins found on various epithelial cells around the body. These proteins perform several important functions from acting as molecular barriers, protecting epithelial cells from adverse environments, to the reception and coordination of signals involved in growth, differentiation, proliferation and even cellular death. Interestingly, mucins are also believed to participate in tumour development including the formation of metastasis, which are responsible for disease spread. In fact, during cancer, the expression and number of mucins increases, while their glycosylation suffer aberrant changes that lead to the uncovering of previously hidden structures - named tumour-associated carbohydrate antigens or TACAs – which seem to be directly involved in cancer progression. The most common TACAs described are Tn, sialyl-Tn, and T (Thomsen-Friedenreich), and analysis of their expression in cancerous cells is helping scientists characterising tumour as the antibodies against TACAs, already widely used as diagnostic tools to several types of cancers, prove.
Catarina Amorim | alfa
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