Looking at the activity of a panel of only eight of the 385 genes permitted the scientists to accurately diagnose the condition in patients with tumor burdens as low as five percent of their circulating blood cells. A panel of ten genes was sufficient to identify a class of patients who will succumb to their disease within six months regardless of their tumor burden. And one gene was seen to occur in about 70 percent of the cancer patients but never in the controls, making it a highly specific marker for the malignant cells.
The findings, reported in the June 2 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, confirm the power of DNA arrays, still an emerging technology, to identify genetic markers that will more accurately diagnose and predict the course of different types of cancer, vital information that may help guide clinicians weighing treatment options for their patients. In addition, each of the genes identified may be a potential target for drug development, greatly expanding the field of possibility for future treatments.
"Our goal in this study was to develop the ability to diagnose cancer at the molecular level using the new technology of DNA arrays," says Louise C. Showe, Ph.D., a professor at The Wistar Institute and senior author on the report. "These results demonstrate that we can do that. It's also becoming clear to us and to others working in this area that being able to look at many genes simultaneously to catch all the shades of the disease is going to be important for improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. We need to be looking at a bigger pict
Contact: Franklin Hoke
The Wistar Institute