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New research tools are too complex for easy answers, researchers say
Date:12/27/2007

Washington, D.C. − Scientists who study cancer may be prone to drawing simplistic conclusions from the powerful molecular tools now available because they dont appreciate how complex the data is that is being generated, said a team of Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) researchers in the January issue of Nature Reviews Cancer.

In a review article summing up the state of the field, they said cancer investigators should endeavor to better understand the issues these genomic and proteomic technologies create or conclusions from their research may be misleading.

These tools have allowed us to see that nature is more complex than we thought, and while we dont yet know what the overarching biological rules are − such as the interrelationship between multiple signaling pathways that can lead to cancer development − we are trying to play the game like we do, said the reviews lead author, Robert Clarke, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor of oncology and physiology & biophysics at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at GUMC, where he co-directs the Breast Cancer Program. Clarke is the interim director of GUMCs Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which is home to more than 60 percent of the Universitys biomedical research funding.

The answers to our questions are probably there in the data, he said, but the issue is whether we can get them using these complex tools and, also, how we will know they are right when we see them.

Clarke led the analysis with six other scientists from Georgetown and from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. GUMC is pioneering a field of systems medicine study designed to understand the theory and properties of the data generated by these new tools and how they may affect data analysis and interpretation.

This review addresses the challenges in reducing high-dimensional molecular data and making the output relevant to cancer treatment, said Dr. Howard Federoff, executive vi
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Contact: Becky Wexler
rjw43@georgetown.edu
202-687-5100
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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