Biomarker found to aid in screening of squamous cell carcinoma

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Published: 11 Sep 2014
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Dr Khadija Aljefri - Royal Victorian Infirmary Newcastle, Newcastle, UK

Dr Aljefri talks to ecancertv at the XV World Congress on Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh, UK, about her research on biomarker "IMP3" which looks to make screening for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin possible.

I’m presenting about a biomarker, it’s called IMP3 and it’s an immunohistochemical stain. So basically what we’re trying to show is whether this stain can give us prognostic indications for squamous cell carcinomas, which is the second most common cutaneous cancer, in the UK anyway. There has been some work that was done previously with this biomarker but in different types of tumours, never before in squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. So the data that’s been shown is very interesting so we thought that it would work or translate to squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

We didn’t just look at squamous cell carcinomas, we looked at other types of lesions that may predispose to squamous cell carcinomas and these are benign lesions. So there is more than one angle, really, to our research and this study is the preliminary data. So it’s a platform.

What did the study entail?

What we did was we looked at a pathology database and identified all the lesions that were coded for as squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratoses, etc. We basically identified these lesions, we pulled them out, we stained them with this biomarker. Some of them were not suitable for studying because either they were wrongly coded or whatever. We were left with 157 samples and, as I said, we stained them with IMP3 biomarker and we put them into groups saying whether they have expressed the biomarker or not. We saw that those that expressed the biomarker tended to be more aggressive tumours and in tumours in patients with other conditions that predisposes to squamous cell carcinoma. We also found that some of the non-cancer lesions, such as actinic keratoses, some of these also stained but the majority of them that expressed the biomarker expressed it in patients who also have aggressive tumours. So that might give us an indication to stratify these lesions early on. But, as I said, our data is quite preliminary. This is the beginning and we would like to do some statistical analysis and have bigger samples etc.

What are the possible clinical applications?

What could happen is that the patient would come in and we could say, instead of saying, “We don’t know how this cancer is going to behave, we need to take a tack and we need to review you to see how you’re doing,” we could say, “Well, we could stain it with this marker and this marker will give us an indication whether your prognosis is going to be good or not.” That’s a bit more information for the patient but also for the clinician to know how to follow-up these patients. It may also help us in understanding how these tumours, the biological mechanism behind them, and whether this biomarker is implicated in the mechanism of the tumour because what I forgot to tell you earlier, that it is an oncofetal biomarker so it’s only found in dividing cells in embryogenesis and it’s hardly found in adults. But we found, well not us, previous studies have found that it’s actually expressed in malignant tissues and its role is really in proliferation of cells and migration of cells. So it might not just be a marker to tell us how the tumours are going to behave, it may be something that will actually inform us a little bit more about the biology of how the tumour evolves.