Panacea Labs of Gaithersburg, MD is working on a possible blood marker for lung cancer. If Human Aspartyl (Asparaginyl) ß-Hydroxylase, or HAAH protein, turns out to be a magic bullet, that would revolutionize not only the detection and treatment of lung CA, but oncology in general.
MIT Tech Review explains:
The Panacea test detects a protein called HAAH. “We found we could detect it as early as stage one, when the symptoms are first presented,” says Mark Semenuk, a research scientist with the company. According to Panacea, HAAH can be detected using a commonplace laboratory technique for identifying proteins in the blood.
The HAAH protein’s potential as a cancer biomarker was first explored by Jack Wands, the director of Brown Medical School’s Liver Research Center and a consultant to Panacea. Wands has been studying the protein’s role in cancer for six years. It’s made by healthy cells, which do not release it into the blood. But cancer cells make the protein in very large quantities, carry it on their surfaces, and release it into the blood. Its function in cancer cells is now “quite clear,” says Wands. The protein has an important role in molecular pathways that make cells become more mobile, which enables tumors to grow and spread throughout the body.
The protein is a telltale sign of not only lung-cancer cells, but also many other kinds of cancer, including that of the liver, brain, prostate, and gastrointestinal tract, says Wands. Members of a group at high risk for a particular kind of cancer should, if they have HAAH in their blood, be further screened for the cancer, says Wands.