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Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers look for 'silenced' genes to monitor kidney cancer patients

Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia say looking for genes that have been turned off by cancer cells may become a reliable and noninvasive way to detect and monitor cancer in the kidney. The data were presented today at the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Anaheim, Calif.

Tumor-suppressor genes are part of the body's natural defense against cancer. When inactivated--or "silenced"--they can no longer do their job, allowing cancer cells to grow. Cancer cells use a mechanism called hypermethylation to turn off the tumor-suppressor genes. "Finding these 'silenced' genes is a good way to find cancer," said Essel A. Dulaimi, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Fox Chase. "Abnormal patterns of methylation can be detected in many cancers, including kidney cancer," she added. Early diagnosis of kidney cancer can lead to earlier treatment with a curative outcome.

Dulaimi and fellow Fox Chase researchers used a molecular DNA-based test to determine the presence or absence of methylation in a particular gene. Called methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the test can find one methylated gene among 100 unmethylated alleles (genes at the same site on a specific chromosome).

"This specificity is enough to detect even a few cancer cells among healthy cells," explained molecular biologist Paul Cairns, Ph.D., lead researcher of the study.

In an earlier Fox Chase study with six methylated genes (Cancer Research, Dec. 15, 2003), Dulaimi, Cairns, urologic surgical oncologist Robert G. Uzzo, M.D., and colleagues found an identical pattern of hypermethylation in both kidney tumors and urine collected before surgery. Forty-four of 50 urine samples (88 percent specificity) had a methylation pattern identical to the original tumor; all of the healthy patients showed no methylation (100 percent specificity).

"A gene that was postive for methylation in the urine was always positive in the matche
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Contact: Colleen Kirsch
colleen.kirsch@fccc.edu
215-906-7227
Fox Chase Cancer Center
18-Apr-2005


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