Subscribe to Newsletter
Outside the Lab Oncology, Liquid biopsy, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Screening and monitoring

Taking the EV Option

As the techniques behind liquid biopsy become more advanced, we should be able to diagnose and evaluate an increasing number of cancers using simple blood tests... in theory. Unfortunately, not all forms of the disease are cooperative. Breast cancer, for instance, has long eluded detection in this manner – but it may not remain hidden for much longer.

“Phosphorylation is one of the major regulation mechanisms in many diseases, including breast cancer,” says W. Andy Tao, a biochemistry professor at Purdue University. “Phosphorylation and kinases have been the major target for cancer therapy, but unfortunately not for diagnosis.” Why? Because the use of phosphorylated molecules as diagnostic biomarkers in blood is confounded by plasma-dwelling phosphatases, which remove the phosphate groups. The solution? Extracellular vesicles (EVs), according to a team of researchers led by Tao (1): “Our findings highlight that isolating EVs from plasma allows us to use blood or other liquid biopsy for potential cancer screening based on the status of protein phosphorylation – something that’s not been done before.”

The EVs found in blood plasma form a protective shell around the phosphoproteins, preventing dephosphorylation. To measure the cargo inside, the investigators lyzed the EVs and then used trypsin to create phosphopeptides ahead of analysis and identification using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Their study detected 144 phosphoproteins at higher concentration levels in breast cancer cases than in healthy controls.

The findings hold significance not only because of the improved ability to measure phosphoprotein biomarker levels in blood, but also because of the abundance of EVs in plasma, which could allow the detection of thousands of phosphopeptides from a single milliliter of sample.

Next, the team plan to investigate potential biomarkers in other cancers and diseases – a promising avenue, given that their initial investigation revealed over 10,000 unique plasma phosphoproteins.

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Pathologist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. IH Chen et al., “Phosphoproteins in extracellular vesicles as candidate markers for breast cancer”, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 114, 3175–3180 (2017). PMID: 28270605.
About the Author
William Aryitey

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.

Related Application Notes
Tumor Genomic Profiling with SureSelect Cancer Tumor-Specific Assays

| Contributed by Agilent

Comprehensive Genomic Profiling with SureSelect Cancer CGP Assay

| Contributed by Agilent

Preventing Bias in scRNAseq Performed on Solid Tumors

| Contributed by Revvity

Related Product Profile
Diagnostics Genetics and epigenetics
QIAseq® Pan Cancer Multimodal cuts user interventions by 50%

| Contributed by QIAGEN

Most Popular
Register to The Pathologist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Pathologist magazine

Register