Prostate Cancer Proteomics
How protein expression levels could unlock hidden insight into the disease
“There have been suggestions that proteomics studies reveal pathways and mechanisms in many cancers that genomics/transcriptomics do not,” says Tapio Visakorpi, Professor of the Prostate Cancer Research Center at the University of Tampere, Finland. “However, the proteomics of clinical prostate cancer samples have not been previously analyzed.” To tackle this gap in prostate cancer knowledge, Visakorpi led a research team to uncover the associated proteomic pathways, with the aim of further understanding genetic and transcriptomic aberrations in the disease (1).
The study, which used high-throughput mass spectrometry on benign and malignant prostate cancer samples, found that the disease was correlated with significant shifts in protein levels in aggressive prostate cancer. Visakorpi suggests that these are putative biomarkers. Evidently, research that focuses only on genetic or genomic aspects of disease is missing parts of the puzzle. Visakorpi says, “In the future, I believe that comprehensive discovery studies on cancer mechanisms will also include proteomics. And not just proteomics (as done here), but also screening of protein modifications.”
Proteomics research is resource-intensive, so Visakorpi and his team have been focusing on two specific questions: why does a subset of prostate cancers (which, histologically, almost all men develop) progress to become a clinical disease? And, of that subset, why are some particularly aggressive? “If we identify the mechanisms for that aggressiveness, we may find new diagnostic tools, as well as therapies,” he says.
“Currently, we are measuring the levels of identified proteins in a larger cohort of prostate tissues, as well as from blood. In the future, we will also test them from urine. These analyses hopefully will indicate whether any of these proteins could actually serve as a biomarker of aggressive prostate cancer.”
At the same time, Visakorpi notes the need to improve methodologies related to sample acquisitions. “We need better tools to obtain samples from metastases, isolation of circulating tumor cells, more sensitive cfDNA analysis, better fixation and processing of tissue samples, more success in growing cells in vitro or in mouse (as patient-derived xenografts),” he says.
- L Latonen et al., “Integrative proteomics in prostate cancer uncovers robustness against genomic and transcriptomic aberrations during disease progression”, Nat Commun, 9, 1176 (2018). PMID: 29563510.
My fascination with science, gaming, and writing led to my studying biology at university, while simultaneously working as an online games journalist. After university, I travelled across Europe, working on a novel and developing a game, before finding my way to Texere. As Associate Editor, I’m evolving my loves of science and writing, while continuing to pursue my passion for gaming and creative writing in a personal capacity.