Serum cytochrome c indicatesin vivoapoptosis and can serve as a prognostic marker during cancer therapy

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Despite significant progress in cancer therapy, the outcome of the treatment is often unfavorable. Better treatment monitoring would not only allow an individual more effective, patient-adjusted therapy, but also it would eliminate some of the side effects. Using a cytochrome c ELISA that was modified to increase sensitivity, we demonstrate that serum cytochrome c is a sensitive apoptotic markerin vivoreflecting therapy-induced cell death burden. Furthermore, increased serum cytochrome c level is a negative prognostic marker. Cancer patients whose serum cytochrome c level was normal 3 years ago have a twice as high probability to be still alive, as judged from sera samples collected for 3 years, analyzed recently and matched with survival data. Moreover, we show that serum cytochrome c and serum LDH-activity reflect different stages and different forms of cell death. Cellular cytochrome c release is specific for apoptosis, whereas increased LDH activity is an indicator of (secondary) necrosis. Whereas serum LDH activity reflects the "global" degree of cell death over a period of time, the sensitive cytochrome c-based method allows confirmation of the individual cancer therapy-induced and spontaneous cell death events. The combination of cytochrome c with tissue-specific markers may provide the foundation for precise monitoring of apoptosisin vivo, by "lab-on-the-chip" technology.

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