Scientific Achievement for 2021 of the Institute for Biology and Immunology of Reproduction.

A method and a kit for the diagnosis of new mutant forms of fusion between two genes, (TMPRSS2 and ERG) with relevance for the determination of the degree of malignancy of prostate cancer is the most significant scientific and applied achievement for 2021 of the Institute of Biology and Immunology of Reproduction (IBIR).

A method and applied kit by Prof. Krassimira Todorova-Hairabedyan (IBIR) for diagnostic detection of oncofusion proteins relevant for metastasis has been patented. The method was applied to detect the levels of mutant proteins in sera of patients with prostate cancer and allows more accurate determination of the degree of malignancy of tumors. This is due to its ability to recognize only structures that have retained their functional properties. Any fusions resulting in misfolded proteins with no effect in the cells are not recognized.

Using the same method, a new mechanism of action of known gene regulators relevant to cancer metastasis to bone and rapid tumour growth was also identified. It became clear that transcription factors RUNX2, ETS1, cMYB directly affect the levels of oncofusion protein TMPRSS2-ERG. This leads to amplification of stemness characteristics of tumors, they lose their tissue-specific properties and become more difficult for destroyal by immune cells.

Thus, the developed method allows better separation of patients for effective treatment (androgen deprivation therapy, chemotherapy) since patients having this mutation at the gene level do not always have a functional oncofusion protein carrying increased malignancy.

Prof. DSc. Krassimira Todorova-Hairabedyan was awarded the “Inventor of the Year 2021” (statuette and plaque) prize by the Bulgarian Patent Office and the Union of Inventors in Bulgaria, in the category “Chemistry and Biotechnologies”.