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Medical News & Perspectives |

Human Genome Studies Expected to Revolutionize Cancer Classification

Joan Stephenson, PhD
JAMA. 1999;282(10):927-928. doi:10.1001/jama.282.10.927.
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Bar Harbor, Me—The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is launching a major effort aimed at revolutionizing how tumors are classified, a venture that has far-reaching implications for how physicians will diagnose and treat cancer in the future.

A refined classification scheme that will reflect important differences in the molecular makeup of tumors—differences that are mostly unknown to today's pathologists—will help researchers find better ways to prevent and treat various forms of cancer, said NCI Director Richard Klausner, MD. He described the initiative at a press briefing held here in connection with a conference on "The Genetics Revolution in the New Millennium," sponsored by the Jackson Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University.

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Microarrays allow scientists to compare gene expression in normal and tumor cells. A robot places tiny droplets containing gene fragments on a glass slide, creating a panel for the analysis of gene activity. Genetic material from normal and tumor tissues is extracted and transcribed into complementary DNA (cDNA), which is then labeled with fluorescent dyes. If a cDNA "probe" binds to a gene fragment on the slide, this indicates that the gene in the tissue specimen is active. A specialized scanning microscope measures the intensity of each fluorescent spot, which is an indicator of the degree to which a specific gene is expressed in a particular tissue. (Credit: National Human Genome Research Institute)

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