Theresa Ahrens

Portrait of Theresa Ahrens
Theresa Ahrens, MSc, PhD

Detection of circulating tumor cells in liquid biopsies by targeting cancer specific proteoglycans

Cancer screening programs are important for early detection, since this is improving patient survival. Screening for colorectal cancer is based on the fecal occult blood test. However, this test gives many false-positive results with the consequence that two-thirds of subsequent colonoscopies are unnecessary. The malaria protein VAR2CSA binds to a unique surface marker, which is normally present only in the placenta. However, cancer cells start to express this surface marker and can therefore be detected with recombinant VAR2CSA (rVAR2). Therefore, this project aims to use rVAR2 to detect so-called circulating tumor cells (CTCs). These cells originate from the tumor and are found in the blood, so that only a simple blood drawn is needed for CTC quantification. We believe that this novel technology can better identify patients for colonoscopy, which will reduce the current costs for the health system.


Basic Mentor: Professor Thor Theander, Department of Immunology and Microbiology (ISIM), University of Copenhagen

Clinical Mentor: Professor Hans Jørgen Nielsen, Hvidovre Hospital