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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36525. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036525. Epub 2012 May 2.

DR6 as a diagnostic and predictive biomarker in adult sarcoma.

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Division of Hematology Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.



The Death Receptor 6 (DR6) protein is elevated in the serum of ovarian cancer patients. We tested DR6 serum protein levels as a diagnostic/predictive biomarker in several epithelial tumors and sarcomas.


DR6 gene expression profiles were screened in publically available arrays of solid tumors. A quantitative immunofluorescent western blot analysis was developed to test the serum of healthy controls and patients with sarcoma, uterine carcinosarcoma, bladder, liver, and pancreatic carcinomas. Change in DR6 serum levels was used to assay the ability of DR6 to predict the response to therapy of sarcoma patients.


DR6 mRNA is highly expressed in all tumor types assayed. Western blot analysis of serum DR6 protein demonstrated high reproducibility (r = 0.97). Compared to healthy donor controls, DR6 serum levels were not elevated in patients with uterine carcinosarcoma, bladder, liver, or pancreatic cancers. Serum DR6 protein levels from adult sarcoma patients were significantly elevated (p<0.001). This was most evident for patients with synovial sarcoma. Change in serum DR6 levels during therapy correlated with clinical benefit from therapy (sensitivity 75%, and positive predictive value 87%).


DR6 may be a clinically useful diagnostic and predictive serum biomarker for some adult sarcoma subtypes.


Diagnosis of sarcoma can be difficult and can lead to improper management of these cancers. DR6 serum protein may be a tool to aid in the diagnosis of some sarcomatous tumors to improve treatment planning. For patients with advanced disease, rising DR6 levels predict non-response to therapy and may expedite therapeutic decision making and reduce reliance on radiologic imaging.

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