- Burnett School Faculty News
One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, the second leading cause of death among men in the United States.
It’s a serious problem and current diagnostic tests aren’t very specific. But a team that includes a researcher from the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences has found a more accurate test that not only determines whether a patient has prostate cancer, but also how aggressive it is.
“That’s really what is unique and exciting about our new discovery,” said associate professor Qun “Treen” Huo, the lead investigator on the project who has joint appointments with UCF’s College of Medicine, NanoScience Technology Center, and Departments of Chemistry and Mechanics, Materials and Aerospace Engineering. “Our nanoparticles not only seek out a chemical reaction that is specific to prostate cancer, they can also tell us how aggressive the cancerous cells are likely to be, which can give doctors better information to treat their patients.”
Current tests can’t tell how aggressive the cancer is, which often leads to the gland’s removal when other options might be available. For example, a very aggressive type of cancer in a young man may require immediate removal of his prostate gland to save his life. A slow-acting cancer in a young patient may give him more options that are less radical.
Dr. Huo uses gold nanoparticles that detect a specific chemical reaction between a prostate tumor and the human immunoglobulin G (IgG). IgG is an abundant protein circulating in the blood. Research has shown that IgG likes to stick to the surface of the gold nanoparticles to form a protein corona. This corona can be detected by a technique called dynamic light scattering. Dr. Huo found that when cancer cells are present, they can “destroy” the IgG in the blood, and this specific interaction is picked up by the gold nanoparticles. Using this simple test, she can determine quantitatively how aggressive the prostate tumors are and the likelihood they will metastasize. The team tested out the technique on human tissue samples.
Dr. Huo’s work was published recently in the Journal of Translational Medicine.
Clinical trials of the test could begin in two to three years, and Dr. Huo hopes the diagnostic tool could be routinely used by physicians in as little as five years. The test most likely would be used to supplement those already used to provide doctors with more quantitative and accurate information, which could lead to more treatment options.
“Ultimately it’s about working together to help doctors help patients,” Dr. Huo said. “That’s why I research cancer. I want to help make that happen.”
Collaborators on the project include: Shannon Sullivan and Hillari Hallquist also from the UCF NanoScience Technology Center, and Sally A. Litherland, Dr. David A. Decker and Inoel Rivera-Ramirez from the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.