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.

Barnett D, Brand RE, Drake RR, Haab BB, Hostetter G, Huang Y, Liu Y, Partyka K, Singhi AD, Tang H


Sci Rep, 2017, 7 (1)

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