Posts Tagged ‘osteopontin’

Combining Nanotube Technology and Genetically Engineered Antibodies to Detect Prostate Cancer Biomarkers[1]

Writer, Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

acs nanoFigure of  Carbon Nanotube Transistor design with functionalized antibodies for biomarker detection.  From paper of A.T. Johnson; used with permission from A.T. Johnson)

In a literature review of the current status of the breast cancer biomarker field[2], author Dr. Michael Duffy, from University College Dublin, pondered the clinical utility of breast cancer serum markers and suggested that due to lack of sensitivity and specificity none of available markers is of value for detection of early breast cancer however these biomarkers have been shown useful in monitoring patients with advanced disease. For instance high preoperative CA15-3 is indicative of adverse patient outcome.  According to American Society of Clinical Oncology Expert Panel, however CA 15-3 may lack the sensitivity and disease specificity for breast cancer as a prognostic marker.  For panel suggestions please click on the link below:

The same panel also concurred on the lack of prognostic value of other markers (for example CEA for colon cancer) but did agree that 66-73% of patients with advanced disease, who responded to therapy, showed reduction in these serum markers.  Indeed, CA125, long associated as a biomarker for ovarian cancer, does not have the sensitivity and especially the disease specificity to be a stand-alone prognostic marker[3].  Therefore, although “omics” strategies have suggested multiple possible biomarkers  for various cancers, a major issue in translating a putative biomarker to either:

1)      a clinically validated (panel) of disease-relevant biomarkers or

2)      biomarkers useful for therapeutic monitoring

is obtaining the specificity and sensitivity for detection in bio-specimens.   As discussed below, this is being achieved with the merger of nanotechnology-based sensors and bioengineering of biomolecule.

For ASCO panel suggestions of biomarkers useful in Prostate cancer please see the link below:

As a side note, since 2010, ASCO has focused on reviewing and producing new guidelines for cancer biomarkers including genome sequencing:

Osteopontin (OPN) and prostate cancer

Osteopontin is a phosphorylated glycoprotein secreted by activated macrophages, leukocytes, activated T lymphocytes and is present at sites of inflammation (for a review of OPN see [4]).  Osteopontin interacts with several integrins and CD44 (a putative cancer stem cell marker).  Binding of OPN to cell integrins mediates cell-matrix and cell-cell communication, stimulating adhesion, migration (through interaction with urokinase plasminogen activator {uPA}) and cell signaling pathways such as the HGF-Met pathway.  Overexpression is found on a variety of cancers including breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian and melanoma[5].  And although OPN is detected in normal tissue, it is known that OPN over-expression can alter the malignant potential of tumor cells.

Roles of osteopontin in cancer include:

  • Binding to CD44
  • Increase in growth factor signaling (HGF/Met pathway)
  • Increase uPA activity- increase invasiveness
  • Angiogenesis thru binding with αvβ3 integrin and increased VEGF expression
  • Protection against apoptosis: OPN activates nuclear factor Κβ

Some researchers have suggested it could be a prognostic marker for breast and lung cancer while there have been conflicting reports as to whether OPN expression is correlated to malignant potential in prostate cancer[6].  Osteopontin is found on tumor infiltrating macrophages, which may contribute to OPN as a prognostic marker. Breast cancer patients (disseminated carcinomas) have 4-10 times higher serum levels of OPN than found in healthy patients, although there is no difference in pre- or post-menopausal women[7].

Piezoelectric sensors have been used by the same group at Fox Chase Cancer Center to detect serum levels of the HER2 protein in breast cancer patients, for the purpose of therapeutic monitoring after anti-HER2 antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin™) therapy.  Lina Loo, in the laboratory of Dr. Gregory Adams showed the utility of using (scFv) to trastuzumab (anti-HER2) with pizo-electric nanotubes to accurately and reproducibly determine levels of serum HER2[8].  This method improved the sensitivity of serum HER2 detection over other methods such as:

  • ELISA {enzyme-linked immunoassay}
  • Luminex platforms

Please watch the following video interview concerning genetically engineered scFV antibody fragments and their use in cancer detection and treatment (with Dr. Matt Robinson and Dr. Greg Adams, from Fox Chase Cancer Center)


However the advent of nanotechnology-based detection system combined with engineered affinity-based biomolecules has increased both the sensitivity and specificity of biomarker detection from complex fluids such as plasma and urine.  The advent of multiple types of biosensors, including

has given the ability to measure, with enhanced sensitivity and specificity,  putative biomarkers of disease in minute volumes of precious bio-samples.

The basic design of a biosensor is made of three components:

  1. A recognition element (I.e. antibodies, nucleic acids, enzymes)
  2. A signal transducer (electrochemical, optical, piezoelectric)
  3. Signal processor (relays and displays)

In the journal ACS Nano Mitchel Lerner from Dr. Charlie Johnson’s laboratory at University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with Fox Chase Cancer researchers in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Robinson, describe a piezoelectric detection system for quantifying levels of osteopontin (OPN), a putative biomarker for prostate cancer[1].  In this paper Dr. Robinson’s group at Fox Chase, genetically engineered a single chain variable fragment (scFv) protein {the binding portion of the antibody} which had high affinity for OPN.  This scFv was attached to a carbon nanotube field-effect transistor (NT-FET), designed by Dr. Johnson’s group, using a chemical process called chemical functionalization {a process using diazonium salts to covalently attach scFV to NT-FET.


Figure. Functionalization scheme for OPN attachment to carbon nanotubes. As figure 1 legend in paper states: “First, sp8 hybridized-sites are created o the nanotube sidewall by incubation in a diazonium salt solution.  The carboxylic acid group is then activated by EDC and stabilized with NHS.ScFv antibody displaces the NHS and forms an amide bond.  OPN epitope is shown in yellow and the C and N-terminuses are in orange and green respectively.” (used by permision for A.T. Charlie Johnson)

This system was then used to determine the selectivity and sensitivity of OPN from complex solutions.


Nanotube (NT) design

  • Grown by catalytic vapor deposition
  • Electrical contacts patterned using photo-lithography
  • Atomic Force microscopy was used to verify structure of nanotube

Chemical Linking of scFv to nanotube

  • Diazonium treatment resulted in activation and subsequent stabilization of amino (NHS) side chain
  • Amine group on lysine of scFV displaced NHS group => covalent attachment of scFV to NT
  • Atomic Force Spectroscopy used to verify linkage of scFv to nanotube

Results showed there was

  • minimal non-specific binding of OPN to the scFv
  • system allowed for detection limit of 1 pg/ml OPN (pictogram/milliliter) or 30 fM (fentomolar) in a phosphate buffered saline solution.
  •  Only a minute volume (10 µl) of sample is needed
  • Sensor able to measure million-fold  range of OPN concentrations ( from 10-3 to 103 ng/mL OPN)

Two experiments were conducted to determine the specificity of OPN to the antibody-detection system.

1st experiment

–          scFv functionalized  sensor was incubated in a solution of high concentration of BSA (450 mg/ml) to approximate nonspecific proteins in patient samples

–           minimal signal was detected

        2nd experiment

–          Functionalized NT-FET devices with a scFv based on the HER2 therapeutic antibody trastuzumab

–          There was no binding of OPN to anti-HER2 devices

–          Therefore anti OPN (23C3) scFv-functionalized carbon nanotube sensors exhibit high levels of specificity to OPN

The authors conclude “the functionalization procedure described here is expected to be generalizable to any antibody containing an accessible amine group, and to result in biosensors appropriate for detection of corresponding complementary proteins at fM concentrations”.

I had the opportunity to speak with co-author Dr. Matthew Robinson, Assistant Professor in the Developmental Therapeutics Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center about the next steps for this work.  Dr. Robinson mentioned that “at this point we have not looked in patient samples yet but our plan is to move in that direction. We need to establish sensitivity/specificity in increasingly complex samples (e.g. spiked normal serum and retrospectively in patient serum with known levels of biomarkers).” 

Cancer patients often present a complex metabolic profile.  The paper notes that OPN has a pI (isoelectric point) of 4.2, which would result in a negative charge at physiologically normal pH of 7.6. I asked Dr. Robinson about if changes in metabolic profile could hinder OPN binding to the NT-FET system would require some preprocessing of blood samples.  Dr. Robinson  agreed “that confounding variables such as additional diseases but even things like diet (i.e. is fasting necessary) need to be addressed before this platform is ready for use in clinical setting.
It is likely that sample prep will be needed to remove albumin, lower salt concentrations, etc. This could end up being problematic for biomarkers that are unstable and would degrade over the time necessary for sample prep. It is also possible that sample prep to remove albumin and other background factors could result in loss of biomarkers. This will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis with validated testing methods.”
One useful advantage of this system is the possibility of measuring multiple biomarkers, clinically important as studies has suggested that

multiple markers result in the higher sensitivity/specificity for many infrequent cancers, such as ovarian. Dr. Robinson agrees “that panels of biomarkers are likely to be better at early detection and diagnosis. In principle the platform that we describe can be set up to allow for detection of  multiple biomarkers at a time. From the biology end of things we have built antibodies against 3 different prostate cancer biomarkers for that purpose.”

Dr. Johnson  commented on the ability of the platform allowed for the simultaneous detection of multiple biomarkers, noting that ”the platform is compatible with the measurement of multiple biomarkers through the use of multiple devices, each functionalized with their own antibody.”


ASCO guidelines Expert Panel on Tumor Biomarkers 2007 Update for Breast Cancer: 

ASCO Guidelines for Genitourinary Cancer:

Screening for Prostate Cancer With Prostate-Specific Antigen Testing: American Society of Clinical Oncology Provisional Clinical Opinion

Published in JCO, Vol. 30, Issue 24 (August 20), 2012: 3020-3025

American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline on Uses of Serum Tumor Markers in Adult Males With Germ Cell Tumors

Published in JCO, Vol 28, Issue 20 (July 10), 2010: 3388-3404

American Society of Clinical Oncology Endorsement of the Cancer Care Ontario Practice Guideline on Nonhormonal Therapy for Men With Metastatic Hormone-Refractory (castration-resistant) Prostate Cancer

Published in JCO, Vol 25, Issue 33 (November 20), 2007: 5313-5318

Initial Hormonal Management of Androgen-Sensitive Metastatic, Recurrent, or Progressive Prostate Cancer: 2006 Update of an American Society of Clinical Oncology Practice Guideline

Published in JCO, Vol. 25, Issue 12 (April 20), 2007: 1596-1605


1.            Lerner MB, D’Souza J, Pazina T, Dailey J, Goldsmith BR, Robinson MK, Johnson AT: Hybrids of a genetically engineered antibody and a carbon nanotube transistor for detection of prostate cancer biomarkers. ACS nano 2012, 6(6):5143-5149.

2.            Duffy MJ: Serum tumor markers in breast cancer: are they of clinical value? Clinical chemistry 2006, 52(3):345-351.

3.            Meyer T, Rustin GJ: Role of tumour markers in monitoring epithelial ovarian cancer. British journal of cancer 2000, 82(9):1535-1538.

4.            Rodrigues LR, Teixeira JA, Schmitt FL, Paulsson M, Lindmark-Mansson H: The role of osteopontin in tumor progression and metastasis in breast cancer. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 2007, 16(6):1087-1097.

5.            Brown LF, Berse B, Van de Water L, Papadopoulos-Sergiou A, Perruzzi CA, Manseau EJ, Dvorak HF, Senger DR: Expression and distribution of osteopontin in human tissues: widespread association with luminal epithelial surfaces. Molecular biology of the cell 1992, 3(10):1169-1180.

6.            Thoms JW, Dal Pra A, Anborgh PH, Christensen E, Fleshner N, Menard C, Chadwick K, Milosevic M, Catton C, Pintilie M et al: Plasma osteopontin as a biomarker of prostate cancer aggression: relationship to risk category and treatment response. British journal of cancer 2012, 107(5):840-846.

7.            Brown LF, Papadopoulos-Sergiou A, Berse B, Manseau EJ, Tognazzi K, Perruzzi CA, Dvorak HF, Senger DR: Osteopontin expression and distribution in human carcinomas. The American journal of pathology 1994, 145(3):610-623.

8.            Loo L, Capobianco JA, Wu W, Gao X, Shih WY, Shih WH, Pourrezaei K, Robinson MK, Adams GP: Highly sensitive detection of HER2 extracellular domain in the serum of breast cancer patients by piezoelectric microcantilevers. Analytical chemistry 2011, 83(9):3392-3397.

Other posts from this site on Biomarkers, Cancer, and Nanotechnology include:

Stanniocalcin: A Cancer Biomarker.

Mesothelin: An early detection biomarker for cancer (By Jack Andraka)

Squeezing Ovarian Cancer Cells to Predict Metastatic Potential: Cell Stiffness as Possible Biomarker

PIK3CA mutation in Colorectal Cancer may serve as a Predictive Molecular Biomarker for adjuvant Aspirin therapy

Biomarker tool development for Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer: Van Andel Institute and Emory University

Early Biomarker for Pancreatic Cancer Identified

In Search of Clarity on Prostate Cancer Screening, Post-Surgical Followup, and Prediction of Long Term Remission

Prostate Cancer Molecular Diagnostic Market – the Players are: SRI Int’l, Genomic Health w/Cleveland Clinic, Myriad Genetics w/UCSF, GenomeDx and BioTheranostics

Early Detection of Prostate Cancer: American Urological Association (AUA) Guideline

A Blood Test to Identify Aggressive Prostate Cancer: a Discovery @ SRI International, Menlo Park, CA

Prostate Cancer Cells: Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Induce Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition

Prostate Cancer and Nanotecnology



Read Full Post »