Science and Technology
publicado em 13/09/2011 às 03h00:00
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Protein could help women avoid surgery for thyroid

Doctor wants to simplify the diagnosis of thyroid cancer, thus avoiding unnecessary surgery

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Dr. Paul Weinberger wants to make the diagnosis of thyroid cancer as simple and precise as the verification of high cholesterol levels.

About 30% of women have a thyroid growth in your life, the vast majority of them are not cancer, said the ENT of Georgia Health Sciences University Weinberger. In about 80% of cases, doctors can rule out the possibility of cancer based on the shape of the thyroid cells biopsied.

The problem is the remaining 20%: 75% are benign, but there is no way to be certain without surgery.

"The vast majority of patients who receive indefinite end up with this answer at least part of his thyroid gland removed. And then we end up saying, 'Oh, good news, it was not cancer,'" said Weinberger.

"This is the Holy Grail for which all are looking for: cancer biomarkers based on blood," said Weinberger.

He is looking for two proteins, galectin-3 and HBME-1, about which little is known beyond that are found at high levels in thyroid cancer. Three years ago, GHSU and other centers started to check the levels of galectin-3 as part of a definitive diagnosis of cancer of the thyroid tissue removed surgically. More recently, the test of HBME-1 was also added.

But Weinberger believes that these proteins could be presented much earlier as biomarkers in a few cells removed during a needle biopsy. Using mass spectrometry developed super-sensitive to detect trace amounts of drugs and other substances in forensic pathology and now used in large research centers, it examines the biopsied cells collected over three years of 50 patients to analyze the levels of both proteins. He can then correlate them to the discoveries made in the area of ​​pathology from the thyroid surgically removed. He tested the concept in purified proteins and in some cell lines. If the relationship halt same high levels of protein in the cancer patient samples, the next step would be a current prospective study in patients before seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

He stored the existing samples at room temperature to make sure that the proteins were stable enough to be functional for biomarkers that doctors could one day send tissue samples to centers like GHSU, with skills in mass spectrometry.

Weinberger noted that even benign growths of the thyroid, sometimes requiring surgery because of airway and / or swallowing problems. An ultrasound of growth determines whether a biopsy is needed.

Although the cause of thyroid disease is essentially unknown, the thyroid is one of the most metabolically active areas of the body, it gets much blood flow as the brain and produces hormones essential for the constant regulation of metabolism, Weinberger said.

   Palavras-chave:   Biomarkers of cancer    Thyroid cancer    Biopsied cells    Galectin-3    HBME-1   
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