Peptides offer fresh insights for cancer diagnosis and treatment

Genes and proteins play essential roles in the maintenance of health and the development of disease and are the focus of the fields of genomics and proteomics, respectively.

Genes, which are composed of 4 nucleic acids, provide the blueprint for constructing all living forms, while proteins, which are composed of some 20 amino acids, are the body’s tireless day laborers, building organs and tissues, forming a complex defense network of antibodies, transporting essential materials to far-flung destinations in the body and facilitating essential chemical reactions.BRCA1 is a human gene that produces tumor suppressor proteins, which repair damaged DNA and help maintain the stability of each cell’s genetic material. Mutations in this gene (and the related gene BRCA2), can disable this repair network, resulting in an increased risk of breast cancer. In the graphic, tumor-associated proteins resulting from mutations in BRCA1 are degraded into smaller fragments or peptides, which circulate in the bloodstream. These circulating peptides are then enriched using specialized nanoporous silica thin films or NanoTraps, then profiled using mass spectrometry to identify among four clinical groups. Such research may help clinicians determine which carriers of BRCA1 mutations are most likely to progress to breast cancer.Download Full Image

Less well known are the peptides, though they too are central players in life processes and can shed new light on a variety of diseases. Indeed, the rapidly expanding field of peptide research or peptidomics is poised to deliver fresh biological insights and new methods for the detection and treatment of a broad range of disorders, particularly cancer.

A new book, “The Enzymes: Peptidomics of Cancer-Derived Enzyme Products,” explores the peptidome in keen detail. The particular focus of the book is how peptides, small segments of linked amino acids, can provide researchers and clinicians with vital clues about cancer prognosis currently unavailable through conventional diagnostic methods.

Tony Hu, a researcher in Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Biodesign Center for Personalized Diagnostics, co-edited the new book.

“Back in 2016, I was invited to UCLA to give a seminar. I talked with a professor there — Fuyuhiko Tamanoi — who served for many years as the editor for the book series ‘Enzyme,’” Hu said. “After he heard a bit about emerging peptide research, he decided it would make a fine topic for a new book, so we invited experts worldwide, from Europe, from China, Japan and the U.S. to explore different aspects of the peptidome.”

As Hu explained, the book is divided into three major areas. The first deals with the discovery of biomarkers — peptide signals present in blood or saliva that can be used for diagnostic purposes. The second part deals with peptide biofunction, which turns out to play a critical role in cancer. The third section is devoted to clinical application and regulation of peptide biomarkers. The book therefore spans research on the peptidome reaching from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside, making it the most comprehensive handbook of leading edge peptidomics to date.

Probing the peptidome

Peptides, like proteins, are composed of amino acids. They are generally far smaller molecules, typically composed of just 50 amino acids or less. They are often produced through the breakdown of larger, more complex proteins. This process of protein degradation is a common feature in cancer progression, invasion and metastasis. In the course of these processes, peptide byproducts of the tumor microenvironment circulate in the bloodstream, providing a potentially rich source of biomarkers for disease.

Although there are myriad cancer-specific proteins secreted by active tumors, which could potentially serve as biomarkers, the challenges of monitoring such proteins — particularly in a clinical environment — are often formidable due to fluctuations in their location and abundance. Hu believes that tumor-secreted peptides, which circulate in the blood, can provide an alternate window into underlying activity, providing more fine-grained diagnoses of a given cancer than can be gleaned from either the genes or proteins alone.

ASU researcher Tony Hu’s new book, “The Enzymes: Peptidomics of Cancer-Derived Enzyme Products,” focuses on the role of peptides in cancer detection and therapy. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

 A new field is born

“About 15 years ago, people started looking at peptides,” Hu said.

Peptides are a rich source of information about the proteins they are derived from and also can shed light on the body’s enzymatic network. As Hu explained, enzymatic activity is often a crucial component in cancer progression, but getting a precise handle on tumor-related enzyme activity has, until recently, proved challenging.

“We published a paper in Clinical Chemistry back in 2014,” Hu said. “There’s an enzyme that is pretty active at the local tumor site in breast cancer. When we profile this enzyme on the tumor tissue, it’s showing this dramatically increased expression compared to normal.”

The enzyme, however, dissolves in the blood and is undetectable. Testing such cancer patients shows blood enzyme levels close to normal.

This presents clinicians with two options: 1) Use a very invasive method to biopsy the tumor tissue in order to profile the enzyme directly, or 2) look at the peptide product produced by the enzyme, which can be profiled directly from the blood. When Hu and colleagues used this approach, they found a variation in peptide expression that precisely matched the enzyme activity at the tumor site. The results encouraged Hu that peptides indeed have much to tell us about underlying disease.

In other cases, the peptide itself is malfunctioning, which may be correlated with tumor progression. Further, peptides can provide vital clues concerning a tumor’s surrounding microenvironment, for example signaling a condition of low oxygen or hypoxia, an important precursor of cancer metastasis and an area of research Hu is currently involved in.

Another critical peptide under study is Hepcidin, a 25-amino acid peptide synthesized in the liver, which serves as the principle regulator of iron metabolism in vertebrates. It can also be used as a telltale indicator of elevated iron status, inflammation and infection associated with diseases including cancer and HIV.

In order to profile peptides from blood samples, mass spectroscopy is used, a technique allowing peptides to be accurately identified based on their molecular weights. Once an exotic technology confined to sophisticated laboratories, cutting-edge mass spec technology is now common in hospital settings around the world, further enabling peptide biomarker discovery to advance and enter routine clinical use.

Finding new avenues

As the authors note, specialized enzymes involved in protein degradation — known as proteases — are involved in all phases of cancer progression including early growth, angiogenesis, inflammation, survival and invasion. Their peptide byproducts offer insights into all of these processes. Evaluation of inflammation through peptide analysis could also be used as a rapid and direct indicator of drug toxicity in chemotherapy, a process that currently must rely on patient symptomatology.

Finally, advances in biotechnology have allowed a new class of safe and efficacious peptide drugs to be developed, furthering the aims of personalized medicine. Immunotherapy, in which the patients’ own immune system is used to attack cancer cells, is just one area where peptides are being applied therapeutically. The immune system responds to a cancer-linked peptide by mounting a robust defense — a technique currently being explored in the fight against prostate cancer.

“For these reasons, we believe peptides have been undervalued for a long time in cancer studies,” Hu said.

Accurate, early diagnostic and prognostic markers are still lacking for most cancers, posing the most significant challenge for successful diagnosis and treatment. Vital information, unavailable through proteomic study, is now becoming accessible through sensitive detection of circulating peptides. The new book throws light on an exciting and hopeful domain of research.

[“Source-asunow”]

Zeta introduces Express Insights

Zeta introduces Express Insights

Zeta, a fintech player in the space of corporate employee benefits, has expanded its product offering by launching a new solution called, “Express Insights.”

Express Insights is a deep analytical solution that offers corporates and cafeteria vendors with detailed analysis to facilitate better food management and enhance overall cafeteria experience. Ramki Gaddipati, Zeta Co-founder & CTO shares with People Matters, ‘’Data Analytics today is the bedrock of any business. Most companies are nowadays looking at real-time analytics for decision-making, and Zeta’s Express Insights will provide them with the required data for taking such decisions.”

He further added that with this solution, companies can better manage their cafeteria inventory, get an insight into employees’ spending patterns, see the live menu, check vendor performance and conduct feedback surveys to understand the needs of their employees regarding facilities and cafeteria.

The insights provide comprehensive analysis on employee preferences such as favorite food items, least selling items, and thereby helping cafeteria vendors manage inventory better and control overall food wastage.

The company also mentioned that the corporates who are already using Zeta Express can access Express Insights to extract information on employee purchase behavior, vendor ratings and performance, settlement reports and even draw comparisons amongst various cafeterias across office locations for overall performance.

As earlier reported in People Matters, Zeta also introduced ‘Select gifting solution’ under its Rewards and Recognition portfolio. It enables corporates to instantly order and disburse virtual gift vouchers from brands such as Amazon, BookMyShow, and MakeMyTrip.

[“Source-peoplematters”]

Mercury Sulfate Category – Procurement Insights and Spend Analysis by SpendEdge

Mercury Sulfate Procurement Report. (Graphic: Business Wire)

LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–SpendEdge, a global procurement intelligence advisory firm, has announced the release of their ‘Mercury Sulfate Market Procurement Report.’ The insights and data provided in this report provide a strategic analysis of the supply markets, factors influencing purchasing decisions, procurement best practices, pricing models, supplier landscape, and an analysis of the supplier capability matrix for the chemicals industry. This report breaks down the data and analysis behind the procurement of mercury sulfate and acts as an all-inclusive guide for making smart purchasing decisions.

“The demand for mercury sulfate is highly dependent on end-user industries such as chemical, consumer electronics, automobile, and pharmaceutical,” says SpendEdge procurement analyst Tridib Bora. “Also, the suppliers in the mercury sulfate market are involving in M&A to enhance their production capabilities and increase their geographical presence across niche penetrated regions,” added Tridib.

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Procurement analysts at SpendEdge highlight the following top three market trends that are contributing to the growth of the Global Mercury Sulfate Market:

  • Increase in the use of mercury sulfate for water treatment
  • Increase in R&D investments to meet industry-specific requirements
  • Rise in M&A activities

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Increase in the use of mercury sulfate for water treatment:

Globally, the gradual rise in the sea levels has resulted in the need for improving the water treatment of water bodies. The procedure involved in the water treatment includes the addition of mercury sulfate, which separates the sulfate by forming methylmercury. In addition, the use of mercury sulfate also helps the buyers for the treatment of freshwater, and the treated water can also be used for domestic requirements.

Increase in R&D investments to meet industry-specific requirements:

Globally, the suppliers are steadily improving their investments in R&D to increase their production capabilities to meet the specific requirements of the end-user industries. The industry-specific grades are offered with varying properties and purity levels based on end-user applications of mercury sulfate. In addition, a gradual increase in the R&D investments also helps the buyers to adhere to regulations such as ECHA (EU), FDA (US), and EPA (US), which are set forth by the government.

Rising M&A activities:

The mercury sulfate market is highly fragmented with the presence of numerous regional and global suppliers across the globe. This has prompted the suppliers in the market to increase their M&A activities to reach out to a wider target audience. Moreover, it also helped the suppliers to strengthen their financial, technical, and production capabilities.

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Related Reports:

  • Global Crude Oil Category – Procurement Market Intelligence Report
  • Global Sodium Citrate Category – Procurement Market Intelligence Report
  • Global Fertilizers Category – Procurement Market Intelligence Report
  • Global Synthetic Food Colors Category – Procurement Market Intelligence Report

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[“Source-businesswire”]

46% of marketers aren’t sharing regular customer insights with sales

Almost half (46%) of marketers only share customer insights, data and feedback with sales teams at most once a month, according to a new study.

New research from experience management company Qualtrics, conducted with 260 in-house marketing professionals, examines the extent to which marketers are working in a silo across many businesses. While integration with sales is lacking, the disconnect with other departments and teams is even more pronounced.

While 54% of marketers regularly share customer insights and feedback with sales, only 50% do so with customer service teams, 29% with the wider workforce, and 27% with the board or C-level executives.

While some marketers may question the need to keep the wider business in touch with customer insights, according to Qualtrics it is only by sharing data that businesses can develop truly effective customer experiences. Leonie Brown, Customer Experience Consultant for Qualtrics EMEA, explains: “Great customer experiences cannot exist in a vacuum. Brands must guarantee that every aspect of the customer journey is delivering a consistent, seamless and high quality experience. To achieve this, everyone involved – from sales staff to delivery drivers to the CEO – must understand how the customer thinks, behaves and what they are looking for.

“Access to data goes a long way to improve each interaction along the customer journey, but information alone isn’t enough. Today the vast amount of data that brands are using look only to the past for insights, reflecting previous shopping habits, purchases and behaviours. By bringing together insights from every customer touchpoint we can unlock “Experience Data” — or X-data — which reveals why consumers behave in the way they do and predicts their next move. That is the real secret to a successful customer experience.”

To find out more about the role of X data in customer experience management, download Qualtrics’ full report here.

Methodology

Qualtrics commissioned a survey with a panel of 260 marketing professionals in July 2017. All respondents worked in-house (rather than agency-side) in UK-based organisations employing at least 50 people and had a minimum of two years’ experience in a marketing role. A second survey of 250 consumers was conducted in August 2017 using the Qualtrics platform.

[“Source-netimperative”]