Recently, I was browsing an edition of  Science magazine I missed with a hectic travel and conference schedule this quarter.   There was an article from Ting et al., (2011) at Mass General entitled,

“Aberrant overexpression of satellite repeats in Pancreatic and other epithelial cancers.”

What caught my eye was a footnote at the end that stated:

“Massachusetts General Hospital and the authors (D.A.H., D.L., S.M., D.T.T.) have filed a patent application relating to detection of satellite and LINE sequences in human cancers.”

It seems that patent applications, or rather the declaration of them, are very much a trend on the rise lately.  Certainly, researchers and institutions appear to be more aggressively pursuing them than in the past.

So what did they find?

In this research, massive expression of major satellites in mouse pancreatic tumours in primary tumour cell lines compared with normal tissues was found.  The researchers represented these findings graphically in a pie chart, which makes it easier to see the patterns at a glance:

Massive expression of major satellites in mouse pancreatic tumours

What at the implications of this research?

The researchers suggested that the data may have important findings:

“The overexpression of satellite transcripts in cancer may reflect global alterations in heterochromatin silencing and could potentially be useful as a biomarker for cancer detection.”

The emphasis is mine, but what if the findings could be repeated in other cancers?  That would be quite interesting indeed.   So far, they have looked at a couple of other solid tumour cells lines:

“Similar patterns were observed in cancers of the lung, kidney, ovary, colon, and prostate.”

This research may well be worth following to see how it develops going forward.

One should note, however, that what we often see in cell lines isn’t always repeated in humans… this is a worthwhile start, but it has a long way to go yet before we possibly see solid validation in large scale clinical trials and some significant meaningful clinical benefit emerge.


ResearchBlogging.orgTing, D., Lipson, D., Paul, S., Brannigan, B., Akhavanfard, S., Coffman, E., Contino, G., Deshpande, V., Iafrate, A., Letovsky, S., Rivera, M., Bardeesy, N., Maheswaran, S., & Haber, D. (2011). Aberrant Overexpression of Satellite Repeats in Pancreatic and Other Epithelial Cancers Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1200801