Catch me if you can: the hunt for novel diagnostic cancer biomarkers

JM Swift1, NJ Whitaker1, J Cox2, A Pavic3 and LH Lutze-Mann1

  1. School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences (BABS), UNSW Australia
  2. Faculty of Engineering, UNSW Australia
  3. Birling Avian Laboratories, Bringelly, NSW Australia

Cancer of the prostate (PCa) and the pancreas (PDAC) are both devastating conditions. In Australia, PCa is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths. Whilst PDAC has a lower incidence rate, it is often fatal and is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related mortality. Currently used diagnostic biomarkers, including Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) for PCa and CA 19-9 for PDAC, have shown limited efficacy, with a recent report by the FDA suggesting against the use of PSA in PCa screening. Novel biomarkers, with improved diagnostic efficacy, are therefore required if we are to reduce the burden of this disease. Recently, the homeobox-domain containing gene En2 has been identified in the literature as a potential diagnostic marker for PCa. Our laboratory has identified ectopic En2 expression in PCa as well as in PDAC, which has not been reported previously. This expression has been confirmed both in cancer cell lines and patient biopsies, with an increase in En2 expression identified between benign and matched PCa tumour biopsies from the same patients. Further, we have generated anti-En2 IgY antibodies in a hen model, and verified antibody titres via indirect ELISA. We are currently investigating the kinetic properties of these antibodies to identify their affinity for the En2 protein. Taken together, our results suggest that En2 may be an efficacious biomarker for the detection of PCa and PDAC, and may be useful as part of a diagnostic biomarker panel.