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December 27, 2006

Profiling Of Cancer Genes May Lead To Better And Earlier Detection

Topics: Medicine
Gene profiling appears to be another breakthrough into elucidating the mechanisms of cancer. It's like searching in the dark and then someone turns on the light.
Cancer specialists have always postulated that genetic change is a key to understanding how cancer starts‚ how it progresses‚ and how it can be stopped. Since 2000‚ the field of genomics‚ the study of all our genes‚ and research into the origins of cancer have swiftly come together. Currently‚ cancer researchers have adopted gene-analyzing techniques and are using them to examine cancer cells down to their core - the individual genes and DNA that regulate their activity. At the forefront of this research is a fast method to analyze genes in a cell‚ called gene profiling.

Now Science Daily reports that a research team at UT Southwestern Medical Center has for the first time identified several genes whose expression is lost in four of the most common solid human cancers -- lung, breast, prostate and colon cancer: According to the researchers, the findings could form the basis for a new early detection screen for certain cancers:

The expression of genes that inhibit cancer development, so-called tumor suppressor genes, is often lost in tumor cells. This can occur through a mutation in the gene's DNA sequence or through deletion of the gene. Loss of tumor suppression function also can occur in a process called methylation, where a chemical called a methyl group is attached to a DNA region near the gene and prevents it from being activated, essentially "silencing" the gene.

"These results show the power of studying tumors on a genome-wide basis, looking at many genes at the same time," ...

... In an effort to identify new tumor-suppressor genes that might be important to lung and breast cancer development, the UT Southwestern team examined which genes are active in those kinds of tumors and compared them to gene expression profiles from normal lung epithelial cells. The researchers then examined the gene expression profiles of these various cell types before and after treatment with a drug that inhibits methylation.

The researchers identified approximately 130 genes that may be methylated and thus silenced in lung, breast, prostate and colon cancers. They analyzed 45 of these new genes in both normal and cancerous tissues from the same patients and found that many of the genes were methylated specifically in the tumor samples.

The new genes that the researchers discovered are now forming the basis for a new early detection screen that could be mounted against the most common human cancers. Read more on the Science Daily report here.

Related:
Profiling Cancer
More on cancer gene profiling.

Cross posted from New Hope Blog

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Profiling for cancer genes is a great way to reduce the risk of getting cancer. Perhaps one day there will even be a cure and things like mesothelioma lung cancer don't have to take the lives of our loved ones. Caused by exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma cancer is fatal but wouldn't it be relieving if this profiling procedure could catch it before it becomes deadly? Cancers like mesothelioma are something we will all have to deal with at some point in our life but it's comforting to know that steps are being made to reduce the risks.

Posted by Richard at December 27, 2006 9:30 PM



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