Saturday, October 1, 2005

An Important Breakthrough in the Cancer Wars

BBC NEWS | Health | Single gene 'skin cancer cause'

A single gene may play a major role in nearly all cases of one of the most common human cancers, a study says.  A team from Barts and the London Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London used gene chip array technology to identify the key skin cancer gene.

The technology allows scientists to look at thousands of genes at once, helping to pinpoint the role played by individual ones in much greater detail. Experts said the technique may lead to similar discoveries for other cancers.

The researchers used the gene chip array technology, which employs a microscope to analyse a specialised slide capable of containing thousands of genes, to identify the key role played by a gene called patched.  The technique is also being used to study tumours of the breast, bladder and prostate and conditions as diverse as HIV and Crohn's disease. 

They found that 70% of basal cell carcinoma tumours - a type of skin cancer - had mutations in the patched gene, leading them to conclude it was probably the "first hit" in most cases.  Basal cell carcinoma is a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer with more than 60,000 diagnoses a year, although it is often treatable and is responsible for about 500 deaths a year.

Lead researcher Professor David Kelsell said the new gene chip array was a "vast improvement on previous technologies, which could not pick up certain differences".   "By comparing a cancer patient's tumour cells with their healthy cells, we were able to see all of the genetic events that played a part on the development of disease in that individual."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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