A new study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research have taken a first step toward identifying glycans–sugars attached to proteins—that could help clinicians diagnose gastric cancer before it becomes deadly. Helicobacter pylori infection is a common origin of duodenal ulcers, gastritis and gastric cancer and there is no reliable way to determine whether patiuents with this infection will go on to develop asymptomatic gastritis or go on to develop gastric cancer.
Researchers said “We showed statistically significant differences between the serum glycan profiles of patients with gastric cancer and those with gastritis. …This is the first time anyone has looked at whether glycans could be used to detect gastric cancer.”
Researchers knew that in the complex process of glycosylation,, enzymes attach glycans to proteins to prepare the glycoproteins to perform specific jobs but cancer can alter these enzymes, changing which glycvans are attached and altering protein function.
Using 72 samples from patients researchers studied whether specific glycans in serum differed between patients with gastric cancer, gastritis, and duodenal ulcers using mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography to measure glycan levels in the different samples. In all they found 19 significant glycan changes, including three that differentiated gastric cancer from gastritis/. Having identified glycans that are expressed differentially in gastritis and gastric cancer their next step is to determine whether these glycosylations changes can be used to predict cancer. Thje said “Right now we have statistical significace but not predictive value……if we can improve the predictability, we could create a diagnostic test with real clinical value.”