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Powerful new method helps reveal genetic basis of cancer

Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have developed one of the most sensitive, comprehensive, and robust methods that now exists for profiling the genetic basis of cancer and other diseases. The method detects chromosomal deletions and amplifications (i.e. missing or excess copies of DNA segments), and is useful for a wide variety of biomedical and other applications.

The study, led by Rob Lucito and Michael Wigler, is published in the October issue of the journal Genome Research (advance on-line publication date: September 15). The powerful new gene discovery method described in the study is called ROMA (Representational Oligonucleotide Microarray Analysis).

By using ROMA to compare the DNA of normal cells and breast cancer cells, the researchers have uncovered a striking collection of chromosomal amplifications and deletions that are likely to be involved in some aspect of breast cancer (see http://roma.cshl.org, password available on request). Some of the DNA amplifications and deletions detected in this study correspond to known oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. However, many of them are likely to reveal new genes and cellular functions involved in breast cancer or cancer in general.

It would be enough that ROMA is capable of providing a comprehensive, genome-wide view of the genetic alterations associated with breast and other cancers. Such information is invaluable for improving the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. But when comparing "normal to normal" instead of "normal to tumor" DNA samples, Lucito and Wigler got a big surprise.

They frequently detected large (100 kb to 1 Mb) chromosomal deletions and duplications in such normal DNA samples. The scientists speculate that such variations or "copy number polymorphisms" among individuals might well underlie many human traits, including heritable predisposition or resistance to disease.

Background Information Relevant to the Development of ROMA


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Contact: Peter Sherwood
sherwood@cshl.edu
516-367-6947
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
15-Sep-2003


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