New guidelines for breast cancer screening and diagnosis help people understand their personal risk

A non-invasive biomarker could help with earlier diagnosis of breast cancer metastases

One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every fourteen seconds somewhere around the world -; based on data showing that approximately 2.3 million women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide in 2020.

It is the most common cancer in women in Singapore and is likely to affect one in thirteen women in their lifetime. Although advances in medicine today allow the treatment of early-stage and non-metastatic breast cancer, advanced-stage and metastatic breast cancers are considered incurable with a very poor prognosis with current treatment options.

Early detection of breast cancer metastases is therefore paramount in the treatment of this condition, and a team of researchers has discovered a non-invasive biomarker that could help with earlier diagnosis. Led by Assistant Professor Minh Le from the Institute for Digital Medicine (WisDM) and Department of Pharmacology at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) and Associate Professor Andrew Grimson from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University researchers found that particles , which are secreted by tumor cells, extracellular vesicles (EVs), show a high level of protein integrins αv and β1 in patients with locally advanced and metastatic breast cancer.

Metastasis is a major problem for breast cancer patients. The study highlights the potential of αv and β1 integrins as a promising prognostic and therapeutic target for patients with metastatic breast cancer. Our research has opened several doors, and we hope that future work will help develop new ways to assess, monitor and suppress this hallmark of cancer.”

Assistant Professor Minh Le from the Institute of Digital Medicine (WisDM) and Department of Pharmacology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore

Published in Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, the team used an ultrasensitive protein identification tool to obtain a set of protein expression profiles from EVs of different metastatic breast cancer cell lines. They found that among many candidate proteins, αv and β1 integrins were consistently overexpressed in EVs with a high metastatic background. In addition, the team worked with Associate Professor Victor Lee, Senior Consultant, Department of Pathology, National University Hospital, and found high levels of integrin αv in samples from patients with stage III or IV breast cancer. He said: “Through the study, we discovered the potential of integrin a as a new non-invasive biomarker for the early diagnosis of breast cancer metastases.”

Assoc Prof Grimson added: “The study has led to fundamental insights into the underlying mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. In addition to its clinical relevance, the research contributes to recent advances in EVs in that there are functionally distinct subsets of EVs.” which can now be more easily identified and studied to understand their functions and potential as therapeutic targets in the tumor setting.”


National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Link to journal:

Zhang, DX, et al. (2022) αvβ1 integrin is enriched in extracellular vesicles of metastatic breast carcinoma cells: A galectin-3-mediated mechanism. Journal of Extracellular Vesicles.

#noninvasive #biomarker #earlier #diagnosis #breast #cancer #metastases

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