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Scientists Spot Genetic 'Fingerprints' of Individual Cancers
Date:2/18/2010

Discovery could help doctors track course of disease, treatment response

THURSDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have found a way to analyze the "fingerprint" of a cancer, and then use that fingerprint to track the trajectory of that particular tumor in that particular person.

"[This technique] will allow us to measure the amount of cancer in any clinical specimen as soon as the cancer is identified by biopsy," said study co-author Dr. Luis Diaz, an assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University. "This can then be scanned for gene rearrangements, which will then be used as a template to track that particular cancer."

Diaz is one of a group of researchers from the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center that report on the discovery in the Feb. 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

This latest finding brings scientists one step closer to personalized cancer treatments, experts say.

"These researchers have determined the entire genomic sequence of several breast and colon cancers with great precision," said Katrina L. Kelner, the journal's editor. "They have been able to identify small genomic rearrangements unique to that tumor and, by following them over time, have been able to follow the course of the disease."

One of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment is being able to see what the cancer is doing after surgery, chemo or radiation and, in so doing, help guide treatment decisions.

"Some cancers can be monitored by CT scans or other imaging modalities, and a few have biomarkers you can follow in the blood but, to date, no universal method of accurate surveillance exists," Diaz stated.

Almost all human cancers, however, exhibit "rearrangement" of their chromosomes.

"Rearrangements are the most dramatic form of genetic changes that can occ
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