A team led by Ying Xu, director of the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics, identified a protein called endothelial lipase that was significantly more suppressed in the urine samples of 21 persons with gastric cancer compared with those of 21 healthy people. More specifically, endothelial lipase was present in all but two of the “healthy” urine samples. However, only one of the samples from the stomach-cancer group contained a relatively high level of the protein; in the remaining 20 diseased samples, endothelial lipase levels were low or absent. The classification system proved to be more than 80% accurate.
In a UGA statement announcing the study results, which were published online by PLoS ONE (www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0016875), Xu suggested that although the test is not yet 100% accurate, it can lead at-risk patients to seek a more comprehensive examination. “A person could go get a urine test, and if the marker protein is present, then they are generally stomach-cancer-free,” he explained. “If the protein is not present, we might suggest that they get their stomach checked.”
Xu’s group initially studied stomach cancer because it is the number-two cause of cancer deaths worldwide. However, they hope that the novel computational method they have developed for detecting abnormally abundant proteins in the urine will lead to the diagnosis of many other types of cancers and even other diseases.
“Overall, we have demonstrated that our predictor for urinary excretory proteins is highly effective and could potentially serve as a powerful tool in searches for disease biomarkers in urine in general,” the researchers concluded in their study.