The CA19-9 and Sialyl-TRA Antigens Define Separate Subpopulations of Pancreatic Cancer Cells.


Molecular markers to detect subtypes of cancer cells could facilitate more effective treatment. We recently identified a carbohydrate antigen, named sTRA, that is as accurate a serological biomarker of pancreatic cancer as the cancer antigen CA19-9. We hypothesized that the cancer cells producing sTRA are a different subpopulation than those producing CA19-9. The sTRA glycan was significantly elevated in tumor tissue relative to adjacent pancreatic tissue in 3 separate tissue microarrays covering 38 patients. The morphologies of the cancer cells varied in association with glycan expression. Cells with dual staining of both markers tended to be in well-to-moderately differentiated glands with nuclear polarization, but exclusive sTRA staining was present in small clusters of cells with poor differentiation and large vacuoles, or in small and ill-defined glands. Patients with higher dual-staining of CA19-9 and sTRA had statistically longer time-to-progression after surgery. Patients with short time-to-progression (<2 years) had either low levels of the dual-stained cells or high levels of single-stained cells, and such patterns differentiated short from long time-to-progression with 90% (27/30) sensitivity and 80% (12/15) specificity. The sTRA and CA19-9 glycans define separate subpopulations of cancer cells and could together have value for classifying subtypes of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.


One biomarker makes reference to this publication:

  • Barnett D
  • Brand RE
  • Drake RR
  • Haab BB
  • Hostetter G
  • Huang Y
  • Liu Y
  • Partyka K
  • Singhi AD
  • Tang H
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Sci Rep, 2017, 7 (1)