The collaboration between Professor Graeme Murray and Vertebrate Antibodies Limited funded through a Kick Start Award has resulted in the successful discovery of a potentially useful prognostic biomarker for colorectal cancer, the third most common malignancy worldwide with an incidence that continues to rise despite advancement in medical provisions. To improve the existing poor survival rates among colorectal cancer patients, early detection, prognosis and prediction of patient responses to existing and future therapies must be improved.

One promising approach is the identification of tumour specific colonic biomarkers, ie substances associated with the malignancy that can be detected in body fluids, circulating tumour cells in the blood, lymph nodes or bone marrow. Following previous research indicating there is a relation between the abnormal evolution of retinoic acid—essential for normal cell growth—and the development of colorectal cancer, the interaction of this molecule and CYP26B1 antibody on colon cancer tissue showing positive stainingthe tumour cells was studied with monoclonal antibodies that targeted specific retinoic acid metabolising enzymes. The better profiling obtained of how these enzymes are genetically expressed in the colorectal cancer helped assess their clinical usefulness as probes by screening a high quality tissue microarray.

The study has generated exciting data with the discovery of potential prognostic biomarkers which are likely to improve the survival rates for colorectal cancer patients.

The success of the project has paved the way to a more high-throughput tumour biomarker discovery and validation platform that can be applied to other types of cancer. Vertebrate Antibodies has secured SMART-SCOTLAND feasibility-study funding to further optimise and streamline the discovery platform. This, in turn, will establish a biomarker discovery hub in Aberdeen, generate revenues and thus stimulate sustainable growth of Scotland’s economy and lead to improvements in the clinical management of patients.

Dr Miguel Rey, Research & Innovation

Email: Miguel Rey

Tel: 01224 274157