The protein survivin could be a useful biomarker for pancreatic cancer

It’s too early to know how useful survivin will be as a prognostic indicator. Khan says the next step is to study more pancreatic cancer samples and try to understand all the different variables that can impact a person’s survival. The researchers have also started studying survivin in other tumor samples, including those from patients treated for head and neck cancers.

“There’s a lot of work being done in biomarkers for more aggressive cancers, like pancreatic,” Khan says. “We are hoping to find ways to improve on existing chemotherapies, which are ineffective for controlling disease for a significant period of time,”


In addition to Khan, Burtness and Hoffman, the Fox Chase coauthors include Donghua Yang, M.D., Fang Zhu, Cara Dubyk, Mohamed Tejani, M.D. (currently assistant professor at Wilmot Cancer Center, University of Rochester), and Steven J. Cohen, M.D., chief of gastrointestinal oncology. The work was supported by funds from the Marvin S. Greenberg, M.D., Chair in Pancreatic Cancer Surgery.

What are Biomarkers and Why are They Important?
Effective cancer prevention and early detection involve the discovery of biomarkers. Biomarkers are substances found in the blood, body fluids or other tissue that show the risk or presence of cancer before it has had the opportunity to progress in the body. They can be used to detect disease at very early stages, and as tools for the development of new drugs and therapies. In 2007, The Lustgarten Foundation undertook an extensive bioinformatics analysis of the published literature to identify the top 60 most promising biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.

Armed with this new listing of biomarker targets, in March 2008 The Lustgarten Foundation launched a Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Development Initiative to identify and develop biomarkers for clinical use. A Consortium of investigators representing four leading cancer research organizations, including Dr. Brad Nelson on behalf of the Canary Foundation, Dr. James DeCaprio of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. James Marks of University of California at San Francisco and Dr. Brian Cao of Van Andel Research Institute, will investigate a total of 60 candidate biomarkers.

It is our hope that this unprecedented antibody panel will form the basis for further studies evaluating the use of these targets for early detection (ELISA-based) assays; diagnosis-based assays; prognostication; imaging and developing therapeutic targets. The antibodies will be stored publicly at the National Cancer Institute through its Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) in order to provide a freely available resource to the cancer community at-large. In a special partnership effort, The Lustgarten Foundation and the Canary Foundation will jointly support efforts to build blood-based assays for 20 candidate biomarkers. The Project is expected to complete in 2009. Ultimately, it is our hope that this Project will lead to the development of new diagnostic methods, and that screening for pancreatic cancer can someday be as simple as receiving a blood test in your doctor’s office.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet status for excellence three consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.


Diana Quattrone
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Fox Chase Cancer Center

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