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Blood screen may help cancer patients thwart radiation side effects, say Stanford researchers

nes, or the same genes at different levels, compared with normal cells exposed to radiation.

A group of graduate students and medical students consisting of Kerri Rieger, Wan-Jen Hong, Virginia Goss Tusher and Jean Tang tested this idea in blood samples taken from 57 cancer patients who had recently received radiation treatment. Of these, 14 patients had unusually severe radiation toxicity. The students used a gene microarray, which provides a snapshot of gene activity, to analyze which genes were active in blood cells.

In the initial analysis, Chu said the group couldn't identify genes that were consistently different between patients who did and didn't suffer serious side effects. He worked with Robert Tibshirani, PhD, professor of health research and policy, to develop a new statistical method of analyzing the microarray data. With this improved analysis, the group found 24 genes that behaved differently in patients who suffered radiation toxicity.

When Chu and his colleagues tested the patients' blood samples for these 24 genes, they identified nine of the 14 people with severe reactions. Of the remaining five patients, two were later found to have been treated with new approaches that carried high risks for toxicity. That left only three of 14 patients who the test failed to identify. Most important, the test did not mistakenly pinpoint any of the other patients.

Knowing which patients may have severe radiation toxicity could make treatment decisions easier. For cancers of the breast or prostate, Chu said surgical options can be as effective as radiation. "If you knew one of the options carried a big risk, that might alter your decision," he said.

For other cancer patients, radiation may be the best treatment. However, Chu added that patients at risk for high toxicity may also have cancers that die in response to much lower radiation doses. In such cases, radiation - though at greatly reduced doses - may still be an optio
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Contact: Amy Adams
amyadams@stanford.edu
650-723-3900
Stanford University Medical Center
19-Apr-2004


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