Haab Laboratory

Cancer Immunodiagnostics

The first step in treating cancer is diagnosis. This step is challenging because cancer cells can look very much like non-cancer cells, and because so many forms exist even within one type of cancer. The conventional means of diagnosing cancer by imaging and by viewing cells under a microscope often do not give enough information for diagnosis; we need greater detail—measurements of specific molecules that indicate whether cells are cancerous and what type of cancer cell they are. The Haab Laboratory analyzes blood and tissue samples to find such molecular indicators, or biomarkers, for the diagnosis and prognosis of pancreatic cancer. Their research has led to the discovery of particular types of carbohydrates—also called glycans—that are produced only by certain types of pancreatic cancer cells and that are secreted at high levels into the blood. The lab’s current goals are to define the glycans and proteins that give the most accurate information about pancreatic cancer; and to establish their use as blood tests and cellular assays for examining patients and guiding treatment. These goals are accelerated by the lab’s novel methods of analyzing glycans and proteins in blood, tissue, and cell culture samples.