Early detection plays a crucial role in the fight against cancer. No matter what type of cancer we are talking about, the best is to either prevent it or cut it off from the very beginning. This is exactly what scientists are determined to do through the identification and validation of new biomarkers – measurable indicators of biological conditions, for instance elevated proteins or abnormal gene expression.
Uterine and cervical cancer is the second cause of death related to cancer in Mexico. According to the Ministry of Health, 3,771 women died from this disease in 2013, which can be fully prevented through vaccination, regular screening, and/or Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) tests. When cervical cells get infected by HPV, it can take ten to 15 years to become abnormal and ultimately cancerous. Screening tests can detect early signs, and highly precise biomarkers can provide further information on the development, stage, and progression of the disease.
The research group led by Ph. D. Martha Leticia Santos at the Institute for Scientific and Technological Research of San Luis Potosi (IPICYT) identified three proteins that were abnormally elevated in tissue samples of cervical intraepithelial neoplastic lesions and malignant tumors. SEL1L, Notch3, and SOCS3 proteins showed a sustained overexpression pattern in aberrant cells compared to normal tissue. These proteins are part of the Notch molecular signaling pathway playing important roles in cell communication and cell differentiation during embryonic and adult life. Alterations in this molecular pathway are known to contribute to cancer development and progression.
Initial tests done by Santos included 18 normal tissue samples, 164 from three different types of neoplastic lesions, and 23 malignant tumors. All samples were obtained from patients in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, so more of them are needed from all over the country in order to study the impact of different HPV strains on other molecular pathways. Further investigation is needed to validate these three proteins as actual biomarkers and how they are activated and modulated. Several other variables can also be studied, such as changes in their expression before and after receiving treatment.
Notch signaling is also the main focus of several research groups aiming to develop notch inhibitors as cancer therapy. At least seven molecules were being assessed in clinical trials in 2013, and this is part of worldwide efforts to develop personalized treatments for oncology.
About the IPICYT
IPICYT is a multidisciplinary research institute located in San Luis Potosí City. Founded in the year 2000, it is a public effort to decentralize science and technology activities in the country and it is significantly impacting.
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