Biomarkers for urological cancers found in urine

Wednesday, 22 April, 2020

Biomarkers for urological cancers found in urine

Researchers from Belgium’s Ghent University and Finland’s University of Turku have developed a new method to enable more timely diagnosis and treatment of urological cancers, ie, prostate, bladder and kidney cancers. Their work has been published in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles.

Biomarkers are biological signatures in the body that can indicate the presence of cancer. A promising new source of biomarkers has recently been identified in the form of extracellular vesicles — microscopic vesicles that are released by cancer cells into biological fluids, such as urine. But no sufficiently effective method exists for separating extracellular vesicles from urine — and such a method would be essential for investigating these vesicles and using them in patient diagnostics and treatment.

“Detecting and examining these vesicles in urine has an enormous potential for developing new tests for early detection of urological cancers; however, research related to this is still in its infancy,” said Bert Dhondt from Ghent University.

Scientists concluded that the currently used methods for separating extracellular vesicles from urine are not optimal for detecting new cancer biomarkers, so they developed a new ‘toolbox’ to map the composition of urinary extracellular vesicles. Researchers at Ghent University developed a novel method to separate extracellular vesicles from urine with high purity, while researchers at the University of Turku were involved in developing a method for determining the protein composition of the vesicles.

“We have the know-how and the world’s top equipment here at the University of Turku for determining the protein composition of biological samples, whereas the researchers at Ghent University represent the very top in extracellular vesicle research,” said Docent Pekka Rappu from the University of Turku. “Therefore, the distribution of work was very clear from the beginning.”

The researchers applied their toolbox to urine samples from patients with prostate, bladder or kidney cancer. They established that extracellular vesicles in urine carry protein signatures specific to the various urological cancers. The researchers were also able to map the protein composition of urinary extracellular vesicles in what is said to be unprecedented detail.

The research thus brings scientists one step closer to the development of promising new urine tests. Dhont concluded, “In the future, the results of the study can aid patients with urological cancers through faster diagnosis and timely treatment.”

Image caption: Electron microscopy image of the urinary extracellular vesicles studied.

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