Blood cells may offer telltale clues in cancer diagnosis
Devin Koestler is a biostatistician whose research is focused on the development and application of statistical methods for analyzing genomic data. Credit: Eli Burakian
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Devin Koestler is a biostatistician in the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. He develops and applies statistical methods to large volumes of data, seeking new approaches for understanding disease, cancer in particular. Koestler and his colleagues are investigating the potential use of white blood cell variation as a diagnostic, predictive, and research tool in the study of non-blood cancers.
"There is promise here for a new diagnostic tool," says Koestler. "What we show here is not ready for immediate clinical utility, but I think it is on the right path."
Koestler is working in the Quantitative Biomedical Sciences program with Professors Margaret Karagas and Jason Moore. His focus is the development of computational and statistical tools for investigating the process of DNA methylation.
In methylation, a molecule known as a methyl group (chemically CH3—three hydrogen atoms and one carbon) attaches itself to the DNA. When this occurs, the DNA function can change dramatically. An example might be the methyl group blocking the expression of a tumor-suppressing gene.
Koestler is the first author on a paper with Karagas and a host of colleagues from Dartmouth, Brown University, Oregon State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of California. Its subject is methylation in leukocytes (white blood cells) and their association with cancer in tissues and organs other than blood, such as bladder or ovarian cancers.
"When we have an illness or a disease, that does something to our immune system," Koestler explains. "It responds by providing whatever cells are necessary to combat that threat. In the blood, the leukocytes supply that immune response."
Methylation has been studied in biopsied cells from cancer patients, in comparison to cells of cancer-free individuals. "Those studies have compellingly shown there are very striking differences in methylation patterns between cancer and cancer-free subjects," Koestler says. "This brought us to also look at patterns of methylation in blood."
The new studies, in which Koestler took part, showed differences in methylation patterns in the leukocytes of cancer patients versus cancer-free individuals. There are different types of leukocytes, referred to as subsets, each of which exhibits its own signature methylation pattern. The proportions of these identifiable subsets shift, depending on the kind of disease they may be combating.
Using data from studies of ovarian, bladder, and head and neck cancers, the researchers demonstrated statistically significant correlations between the specific cancers and the methylation signatures that characterize leukocyte subsets.
"What made our study unique is that we had the methylation data on the individual leukocytes themselves, enabling us to connect the dots, and better understand the mechanisms underlying the results from previous studies."
Analyzing the relative proportions of the leukocyte types in the blood sample can help predict the onset of a particular cancer or identify and diagnose a cancer in progress. The alternative of sampling a patient's blood is far preferable to undergoing an invasive surgical biopsy.
The advantages of using methylation patterns to assess proportions of white blood cell subtypes in cancer research extend beyond the bedside to the lab bench. Archival blood samples frozen and stored at some time in the past can now be used as research material, whereas existing methods typically require fresh blood samples with intact cells to assess white blood cell subtypes.
Provided by Dartmouth College
- Technique spots disease using immune cell DNA Jul 09, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- DNA methylation level is marker of breast cancer risk May 11, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Blood test may find markers of bladder cancer risk Feb 22, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Tying our fate to molecular markings Oct 11, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Unique genetic marker may improve detection of recurrent ovarian cancer Dec 07, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
13 hours ago As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(HealthDay)—The American Cancer Society, which is celebrating on Wednesday a century of fighting a disease once viewed as a death sentence, is making a pledge to put itself out of business.
Cancer 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) investigators also conclude that the 20 percent reduction in lung cancer mortality with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) versus chest X-ray (CXR) screening previously reported in the ...
Cancer 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Researchers have developed a new drug delivery system that allows inhalation of chemotherapeutic drugs to help treat lung cancer, and in laboratory and animal tests it appears to reduce the systemic damage ...
Cancer 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
When turned on, the gene p53 turns off cancer. However, when existing drugs boost p53, only a few tumors die – the rest resist the challenge. A study published in the journal Cell Reports shows how: tumors that live even i ...
Cancer 7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Study leader, Professor John Mathews from the University of Melbourne said this small increase in cancer risk must be weighed against the undoubted benefits from CT scans in diagnosing and monitoring disease.
Cancer 11 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Swiss scientists reveal the mechanism responsible for aging hidden deep within mitochondria—and dramatically slow it down in worms by administering antibiotics to the young.
7 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
(HealthDay)—Migraines and depression can each cause a great deal of suffering, but new research indicates the combination of the two may be linked to something else entirely—a smaller brain.
4 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion—the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.
4 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 2 |
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A new approach for immunizing against influenza elicited a more potent immune response and broader protection than the currently licensed seasonal influenza vaccines when tested in mice and ferrets. The vaccine ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Calorie information in fast food restaurants used by 40 percent of 9-18 year olds when making food choices
A new study published online today (Thursday) in the Journal of Public Health has found that of young people who visited fast food or chain restaurants in the U.S. in 2010, girls and youth who were obese were more likely ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0