Promising New Study Predicts Spread of Cancer

Deborah Shipley's picture

A promising new study, published in the recent Journal of Clinical Investigations, shows a way to predict the spread of cancer by examining the level of protein in a tumor cell.

The research, conducted at the National Institute of Health and the University of Hong Kong, measured tumors that had been surgically removed from patients for the protein's genetic material and the genetic material in the surrounding tissue.

By measuring the protein levels, the researchers were able to predict 90 percent of the time if a cancer would spread within two years.

The protein, CPE-delta N, is involved in processing insulin and other hormones. CPE-delta N was present in high amounts in tumors that had spread and to a lesser degree in the surrounding tissue.


In a primary tumor, cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body and form new tumors. This is called metastasizing and the secondary tumors are much like the original tumors. The type of cancer that metastasizes is often fatal cancer so health care practitioners look to contain the cancer in it's earlier stages.

The study looked at 99 patients with liver cancer. The researchers found that when the level of CPE delta-N in tumors was more than twice that in the surrounding tissue, the cancer was highly likely to return or to metastasize within two years. The metastasis was predicted in more than 90 percent of cases. Predictions that tumors would not return in the two-year period were accurate 76 percent of the time.

Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says, "Testing for CPE-delta N, if combined with existing diagnostic methods, offers the possibility of more accurately estimating the chances that a cancer will spread. Conceivably, a patient's CPE-delta N levels could be a key guide in individualizing their cancer care to improve outcome."

Although further research is necessary, this study shows promise for further possibilities of treatments that could possibly stop cancer from spreading by blocking the CPE-delta N protein.

For more information on cancer visit: National Institutes of Health