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Profiling of Cancer Genes May Lead to Earlier Detection Human Cancers

d Dr. Minna.

Patient samples from UT Southwestern’s new Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center tissue repository and previous results from study author Dr. David Euhus allowed the research team to quickly extend its findings to breast, prostate and colon cancer. A Hamon Center postdoctoral researcher and lead study author Dr. David Shames was instrumental in identifying the genes, Dr. Minna said.

“What would have normally taken us several years, David Shames was able to determine in less than a month,” Dr. Minna said. “The new genes Dr. Shames discovered are now forming the basis for a new early detection screen that could be mounted against the most common human cancers.”

The genes the researchers found to be methylated specifically in the tumor samples might control the conversion of normal cells into cancer cells, Dr. Minna said, but this possibility needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis.

Although it is known that gene expression patterns in tumors vary greatly from tissue to tissue, the researchers hope that the similarities of the methylation patterns found in this study might lead to a better approach to detect cancer early and help identify new promising therapeutic targets to treat some of the most prevalent cancers.

“The findings from our study suggest that it may be possible to develop a methylation profiling platform that could be used to screen patients for common solid tumors, while at the same time identify what type of tumor the patient may have,” Dr. Shames said.

The study also illustrates that some of the basic processes that underlie the development of breast and lung cancer are identical, even though the chemicals that initiate those processes – estrogen and tobacco carcinogens, for example – may be different, said Dr. Euhus, associate professor of surgical oncology.

“I was also struck that some of these processes could be detected in benign breast cel
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