Chip Rapidly Detects Genetic Changes in Neuroblastoma

The technique may be adaptable for other types of cancer. Rather than covering the entire genome, the microarray focuses on suspect regions of chromosomes for signs of deleted genetic material known to play a role in the cancer. The investigators, from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Thomas Jefferson University, say their technique may be readily adapted for other types of cancer.

One advantage of their technique is its flexibility, said co-author John M. Maris, M.D., a paediatric oncologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "As future research identifies other genes active in neuroblastoma, we can modify the microarray to include such regions,” he added.

"We have customised this tool for neuroblastoma, but the approach might also be adapted to other types of cancer in which DNA changes are important,” said co-author Paolo Fortina, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University.

Cancer researchers have pinpointed specific genetic abnormalities that influence the aggressiveness of neuroblastoma. An important abnormality is loss of heterozygosity (LOH), the deletion of one copy of a pair of genes. When the gene involved is a tumour suppressor gene, LOH removes a brake on uncontrolled cell growth, the growth that is the hallmark of cancer.

Researchers in Dr. Maris' laboratory previously established that LOH in a region of chromosome 11 allows aggressive neuroblastoma to take hold. The new microarray can detect such gene defects on chromosome 11 and other genetic regions implicated in neuroblastoma.

The microarrray described in the paper has only been used in their laboratory study, but the researchers hope that with further study it may become more widely available as a diagnostic tool for oncologists treating patients with neuroblastoma, and possibly for other cancers.; Source: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia