Institute pairs biomarkers to help develop biomedicine

November 29, 2017

Colon cancer "precision" research makes cover of top cancer journal

(Austin, Minnesota) - Groundbreaking cancer research from The Hormel Institute's Dr. Seung Ho Shin made the cover article of a top online research journal EBioMedicine. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and therefore better and more effective research and treatments for this disease are essential.

The published article describes important cancer biomarker research conducted by Dr. Shin under the guidance of executive director Dr. Zigang Dong in collaboration with others in the Molecular and Cellular Biology section. It is accompanied by a guest editorial on advances in pairing cancer biomarkers to more effective therapies.  

"By studying altered biological pathways, we can discover clues about what goes wrong when cancer strikes," said Dr. Shin. “A team effort from several diverse fields of science enabled us to discover a means to analyze cancer to identify cancer biomarkers and utilize them for effective treatments in precision oncology. Technical support provided by Todd Schuster and Tara Adams (The Hormel Institute), and close collaboration with China-US (Henan) Hormel Cancer Institute facilitated our progress."

The study of biomarkers is important because they are molecules in our body that when measured, can provide clues about the state of health and disease.   Scientists can now specifically identify important molecules and pathways that are implicated in cancer.  Some could provide important details about the particular cancer, including the stage of the disease and more effective methods to treat it. For the first time in 2017 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a cancer drug (pembrolizumab) that was based on a common biomarker across different cancer types, rather than standard tumor features such as site of origin or histology.  

Dr. Shin and colleagues analyzed the role of a potential cancer biomarker in colon cancer called beta-catenin. They found that the levels of beta-catenin in tumors were a good indicator of whether a drug that targeted the pathway could kill cancer cells. This research is important because it demonstrated that the level of the cancer biomarker (beta-catenin), could be used to determine the optimal treatment (e.g., whether to use a beta-catenin inhibitor).

Precision oncology continues to hold great promise for cancer research. Dr. Shin's research highlights how simple genetic tests that allow doctors to prescribe tailored treatments to cancer patients (taking into account their genetic backgrounds) could become a reality – allowing doctors to maximize treatment and minimize adverse side effects.

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EBioMedicine

The effective translation of insights gained from biomedical research into improved human health is a global priority. To this end, Elsevier has looked to the leadership of its two leading brands, Cell Press and The Lancet, to guide the launch of EBioMedicine.  EBioMedicine will cover the entire breadth of translational and clinical research within all disciplines of life and health sciences, ranging from basic science to clinical and public/global health science.

About The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota is a leading cancer research department of UMN and part of the Masonic Cancer Center, an NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Collaborative research partners with Mayo Clinic, Zhengzhou University, MD Anderson, Columbia University, University of Arizona and more renowned centers worldwide, The Hormel Institute tripled in size in 2008 and again doubled in size in 2016.  Currently the faculty and staff are comprised of 130 leading cancer research scientists and 14 cancer research sections.  Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute UMN will add another 130 new faculty and staff jobs as part of its expansion as it continues to perform world-class research in the quest to prevent and control cancer.