Genomics and Proteomics

Cancer Proteomics

Researchers are studying patients' genomes and proteomes to understand the genetic basis of diseases. The most prominent disease researchers are studying with proteomic approaches is cancer. These approaches improve screening and early cancer detection. Researchers are able to identify proteins whose expression indicates the disease process. An individual protein is a biomarker; whereas, a set of proteins with altered expression levels is a protein signature. For a biomarker or protein signature to be useful as a candidate for early cancer screening and detection, they must secrete in body fluids, such as sweat, blood, or urine, such that health professionals can perform large-scale screenings in a noninvasive fashion. The current problem with using biomarkers for early cancer detection is the high rate of false-negative results. A false negative is an incorrect test result that should have been positive. In other words, many cancer cases go undetected, which makes biomarkers unreliable. Some examples of protein biomarkers in cancer detection are CA-125 for ovarian cancer and PSA for prostate cancer. Protein signatures may be more reliable than biomarkers to detect cancer cells. Researchers are also using proteomics to develop individualized treatment plans, which involves predicting whether or not an individual will respond to specific drugs and the side effects that the individual may experience. Researchers also use proteomics to predict the possibility of disease recurrence.

The National Cancer Institute has developed programs to improve cancer detection and treatment. The Clinical Proteomic Technologies for Cancer and the Early Detection Research Network are efforts to identify protein signatures specific to different cancer types. The Biomedical Proteomics Program identifies protein signatures and designs effective therapies for cancer patients.