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Customized gene chip provides rapid detection of genetic changes in children's cancer

Genetics researchers have developed a customized gene chip to rapidly scan tumor samples for specific DNA changes that offer clues to prognosis in cases of neuroblastoma, a common form of children's 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. The proof-of-principle study appears in the August issue of Genome Research.

One advantage of their technique is its flexibility, said co-author John M. Maris, M.D., a pediatric 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 customized 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 Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and section chief, Genomics and Diagnostics, in the Jefferson Department of Medicine's Center for Translational Medicine.

The most common cancer found in infants, neuroblastoma strikes the peripheral nervous system, often appearing as a solid tumor in a child's chest or abdomen. Some types of neuroblastoma are low risk, resolving after surgeons remove the tumor, while others are much more aggressive. Identifying the correct risk level allows doctors to treat aggressive cancers appropriately, while not subjecting children with low-risk cancer to overtreatment.

Cancer researchers have pinpointed specific genetic abnormalities that influence the aggressiveness of neuroblastoma. An important abnormality is loss of heterozygosity (LOH), the deletion of o
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Source:Thomas Jefferson University


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