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U-M scientists find cancer's genetic core: 67 genes universally activated in human cancer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Of the approximately 35,000 genes in the human genome, scientists at the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that activity from just 67 is required to change normal human cells into cancer.

These 67 genes constitute what U-M scientists call cancer's meta-signature a core set of essential genes, which somehow triggers the transformation from normal cells to cells that are neoplastic, or growing abnormally. A list of these genes, and a description of a new database used to identify them, will be published June 7 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We used a statistical analysis method called comparative meta-profiling to examine 40 datasets from other investigators showing specific patterns of genetic activity associated with one of 12 types of cancer," says Daniel Rhodes, the paper's first author and a student in the U-M Medical School's Medical Scientist Training Program and Bioinformatics Graduate Program. "The result was a common transcriptional profile with 67 activated genes present in nearly all cancerous tissue samples in the study, regardless of their tissue of origin."

"This paper is the first to report common patterns of genetic activity across multiple cancer microarray datasets from different investigators," says Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of pathology and urology in the U-M Medical School, who directed the study. "These genes and their associated proteins are the molecular components that make different types of cancer more similar to each other than to normal tissue. Since these genes appear to be involved in so many types of cancer, they are prime targets for new cancer-fighting drugs."

Chinnaiyan, Rhodes and colleagues also identified another 69-gene meta-signature showing a common pattern of genetic activity in aggressive, invasive undifferentiated cancers. The pattern is different from
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
7-Jun-2003


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