Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Can thermodynamics help us better understand human cancers?

Date:
October 15, 2013
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
Researchers analyzed gene expression profiles of more than 2,000 patients and identified cancer-specific gene signatures for breast, lung, prostate and ovarian cancers.

When the "war on cancer" was declared with the signing of National Cancer Act in 1971, identifying potential physical traits, or biomarkers, that would allow doctors to detect the disease early on was a significant goal. To this day, progress in the battle against cancer depends on understanding the underlying causes and molecular mechanisms of the disease.

In a new study, UCLA researchers analyzed the gene-expression profiles of more than 2,000 patients and were able to identify cancer-specific gene signatures for breast, lung, prostate and ovarian cancers. The study applied an innovative approach to gene-array analysis known as "surprisal analysis," which uses the principles of thermodynamics -- the study of the relationship between different forms of energy -- to understand cellular processes in cancer.

The research appears in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will be published in an upcoming print edition.

Surprisal analysis allows researchers to observe how cellular energy is expended in cancer cells and how this process affects the way in which these cells choose to express certain genes. In particular, scientists can look at how cancer cells decide to use energy when expressing critical genes that allow them to persist and grow.

By identifying such cancer-specific gene signatures, scientists are able to distinguish, with high fidelity, the biopsy samples of cancer patients from control samples and potentially to identify novel cancer biomarkers for early detection of the disease and the development of new therapies.

Research co-author Raphael Levine, a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and of medical and molecular pharmacology, and his fellow researchers hope the cancer-specific signatures they identify using surprisal analysis will provide "thermodynamic targets" against cancer.

"We believe that this paper introduces a new hallmark of cancer -- a thermodynamic signature -- where the free energy redistributions among cellular biomolecules in the cancer state, not seen in the non-cancer state, sustain the disease," said Levine, a faculty member in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. "A further, future power of surprisal analysis is in its ability to detect 'patient potentials,' meaning patient-specific differences can be detected in the analysis, reintroducing the possibility of personalized medicine to the cancer arena."

The same year the war on cancer was declared, Levine first formulated surprisal analysis with his colleagues, the late Richard Bernstein of UCLA and Avinoam Ben-Shaul, recognizing a need to better understand and characterize how systems utilize energy. Since then, surprisal analysis has become a critical tool for the analysis of chemical, nuclear and physical dynamics. For this research, Levine was awarded the Wolf Prize in chemistry in 1988.

In the last few years, Levine and his colleges have attempted to extend surprisal analysis to biological systems. Because the theoretical approach enables the monitoring of small systems that are not in thermodynamic equilibrium, living cancer cells provide a very suitable opportunity for study.

Progress toward personalized medicine is expected to transform the cancer therapeutics field. But identifying an approach that can give researchers a feasible, quantitative method to identify cancer-specific gene signatures and characterize individual patient cancers has remained "an ultimate challenge," said Levine, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The new research suggests there may be an effective approach to identify cancer-specific signatures. While encouraging, Levine and his co-authors emphasize that the results are preliminary and that any practical diagnostics resulting from this research would require considerable additional and extensive scientific validation.

Cancer deaths have declined only slightly in the past decade, mostly due to preventive health efforts such as smoking cessation and routine examinations. Identifying cancer-specific markers remains a challenge. However, modern genetic sequencing technology can measure the expression levels of many genes. The recent development of large-scale genomic approaches and sequencing initiatives have produced several candidate biomarkers for cancer detection, but very few have been robust enough to work well in practice. The inability to extend these biomarkers from the bench to the clinic arises from a limited ability to separate the wheat from the chaff while sifting through the often-insurmountable data retrieved from genomic technologies, Levine said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Zadran, F. Remacle, R. D. Levine. miRNA and mRNA cancer signatures determined by analysis of expression levels in large cohorts of patients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1316991110

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Can thermodynamics help us better understand human cancers?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015094659.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2013, October 15). Can thermodynamics help us better understand human cancers?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015094659.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Can thermodynamics help us better understand human cancers?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015094659.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins