Breast Cancer Cell Sugars in Liquid Biopsies Could Be Key to Early Detection

Breast Cancer Cell Sugars in Liquid Biopsies Could Be Key to Early Detection
The sugars that breast cancer cells shed into the bloodstream could provide an early cancer warning, according to a press release from GlycoNet, Canada's national network of sugar science researchers. Karla Williams, PhD, Canada research chair in oncology at the University of British Columbia, discovered that certain glycans — long chains of sugars — are found more often on the surface of cancer cells, as opposed to healthy cells. Cells shed small fragments of themselves, called extracellular vesicles, both to eliminate waste and as a form of communication. These fragments enter the bloodstream, where they can be collected and analyzed. Because extracellular vesicles bud off from their parent cell, the glycans covering that cell surface also would coat that of the vesicles. Williams hypothesized that patterns of these glycans might form a signature for cancer cells that could be detected in blood samples used for liquid biopsies. At present, liquid biopsies for detecting breast cancer remain in the experimental stages. Most efforts have focused on cancer-associated nucleic acids — DNA and RNA — or proteins, such as neoantigens. A liquid screening tool complementary to conventional tests such
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