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Genome breakthrough allows scientists to identify and profile tumor cells from very small samples
Date:5/6/2010

ore rearrangements that can be seen as copy number changes. The genetic history of a tumor cell is written in its DNA and much of that information can be extracted from its copy-number profile."

Many of these rearrangements are characteristic of different cancer types or sub-types and are beginning to be used in diagnosis and prognosis. However, most tumor samples are mixtures of tumor cells of potentially different types mixed together with other tissue, making it difficult to understand what is going on in specific tumor cells.

Dr Hicks and colleagues recently published a method for enriching tumor cells from small parts of tumor specimens, separating them by virtue of their aberrant DNA content, and determining that the patterns were present in individual cells. They called this process the 'single nucleus sequencing' method (SNS).

At IMPAKT, Dr Hicks reported that the researchers were able to use the technique to show the pathway of genetic changes that happened as two breast carcinomas developed.

"By profiling over 100 individual cells from a single tumor, we have obtained evidence that as cancer cells initiate their progression they undergo drastic changes, sometimes losing as much as 25% of their genomic DNA through massive deletions, yet are still able to establish clones of identical cells that occupy large portions of the tumor mass," Dr Hicks explained.

"Ultimately, at least three major populations of cells, all genetically related, were found to occupy one particular tumor mass. We are now working to understand which of these cells can go on to form distant metastases."

Currently, the techniques used in this research are too expensive and time-consuming for use as routine diagnostics. "But we believe that the drastic increases in sequencing efficiency and sample multiplexing on the horizon will make this approach feasible in the near future," Dr Hicks said.


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Contact: Vanessa Pavinato
media@esmo.org
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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