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Analytical Chemistry

Noninvasive Method Measures Exposure To Carcinogens

ACS Meeting News: Mass spec technique detects biomarkers linked to urinary tract cancers

August 18, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 33

This week’s selections are from the ACS national meeting, which took place on Aug. 10–14 in San Francisco.

Chemicals covalently bound to DNA can help researchers assess a patient’s exposure to carcinogens, but studying these DNA adduct biomarkers can require excising tissue from people and using radioactive labeling methods. Scientists have now shown that they can noninvasively detect biomarkers of carcinogens that cause urinary tract cancers using mass spectrometry, a method that is several orders of magnitude more sensitive than previous techniques. Led by Robert J. Turesky of the University of Minnesota and Arthur P. Grollman of Stony Brook University, SUNY, researchers analyzed adducts from aristolochic acids, which are well-documented carcinogens, bound to DNA in cells retrieved from urine. Aristolochic acids come from Aristolochia plants routinely used in herbal medicines and supplements. Turesky said although the results are preliminary, he’s excited by the prospect of extending the technique to study biomarkers of other urinary tract carcinogens. “We’re hoping, with our analytical mass spectrometry methods, that our DNA adduct biomarkers will identify individuals at risk and help to refine cancer risk estimates.”

Aristolochia plants.
Credit: Shutterstock
Herbs made from Aristolochia plants contain carcinogenic compounds.


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