MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Fiona Larner, PhD Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK
Department of Earth Science & Engineering, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, UK
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Zinc has been identified to have a role in breast tissue and breast cancer for over a decade. Zinc has several isotopes (different versions of zinc due to varying numbers of neutrons), which require slightly different amounts of energy to go through biological processes. By measuring the changes in the zinc isotopic signature, we can probe it’s behaviour to a greater resolution to that currently available in medical institutions. We looked at the isotopic signatures in different tissues of healthy patients and those with breast cancer in order to understand the mechanisms involved in more detail and in search for a biomarker that uses these signatures to diagnose breast cancer.
We found that breast cancer tissue preferentially retains the lighter isotopes of zinc to a greater extent than healthy breast tissue. This means that the partnering heavy isotopes must be ejected from the cell, and may provide a biomarker for cancer in the future.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: There are new, sensitive techniques available for understanding how metals are processed by the body, and can add a novel perspective to complement those techniques currently used to understand disease. The study has found a phenomenon in breast cancer that may aid diagnosis, however, we are still investigating the viability of the biomarker.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Applying these new techniques across diseases that are linked to abnormal metal metabolisms will improve understanding and could highlight currently unknown biological pathways. Collaborations between analytical chemists, medics and engineers are key to the success of this.
Zinc isotopic compositions of breast cancer tissue
Fiona Larner,*ab Laura N. Woodley,c Sami Shousha,d Ashley Moyes,e Emma Humphreys-Williams,f Stanislav Strekopytov,f Alex N. Halliday,a Mark Rehkämperbf and R. Charles Coombesg