Voelcker Academy

Research Symposium 2010


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Scarlette Hsia

Gene expression signature from peripheral blood mononuclear cells as a prostate cancer biomarker

Scarlette Hsia

Mentor: Dr. Carolina Livi

The research project will be focused on the analysis of mRNA and microRNA gene expression from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from prostate cancer patients and healthy subjects to aid in the development of cancer biomarkers. Cancer biomarkers are found in the genetic code, plasma, bodily fluids, and serum. Cancer biomarkers can help determine cancer predisposition, and assist in the early detection of cancer. Currently, only some cancer biomarkers exist for which patients are screened. One common cancer biomarker is PSA, or prostate specific antigen. This biomarker aids in the diagnosis and prognosis of prostate cancer. This biomarker is present in the body under normal conditions, and can fluctuate due to other factors, such as prostatitis making it less specific than necessary to be used for diagnosis accurately. The immune system is likely one of the first systems in the body to detect the presence of cancerous cells. In fact, it is thought that an early step in tumor development is immune escape, a biological change in cancer cells allowing for them to evade attack by the immune system. We hypothesize that changes in the immune system caused by prostate cancer can be measured by gene expression profiling of PBMCs leading to a signature that will be useful in the diagnosis and/or prognosis of prostate cancer. To test this hypothesis, we will isolate total RNA from the PBMCs and use this RNA to perform quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction using TaqMan or SYBR green chemistry to measure the expression of mRNA transcripts as well as microRNAs found to be correlated to prostate cancer in the literature or as part of an ongoing gene expression profiling experiment using microarrays. The resulting data will be analyzed and potential transcripts or microRNAs that show an association with prostate cancer will be identified. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop new genomic biomarkers that will be clinically useful in the diagnosis or prognosis of prostate cancer.