Rapid Scan Helps Diagnose Dangerous Childhood Cancer

Researchers develop gene chip to aid neuroblastoma prognosis

THURSDAY, Aug. 4, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A customized gene chip that scans DNA regions in tumor samples to detect genetic changes in the children's cancer neuroblastoma has been developed by Philadelphia researchers.

Instead of scanning the entire genome, this gene chip (microarray) zeroes in on suspect regions of chromosomes for evidence of deleted genetic material known to play a role in neuroblastoma. This microarray technique may be readily adapted for other forms of cancer, according to the researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Thomas Jefferson University.

The proof-of-principle study appears in the August issue of the journal Genome Research.

"We have customized this tool for neuroblastoma, but the approach might also be adapted to other types of cancer in which DNA changes are important," study co-author Dr. Paolo Fortina, professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College, said in a prepared statement.

Neuroblastoma affects the peripheral nervous system and often appears as a solid tumor in a child's abdomen or chest. Certain types of neuroblastoma are low risk and are resolved after surgery to remove the tumor. Other forms of neuroblastoma are more aggressive.

Specific genetic abnormalities influence the aggressiveness of neuroblastoma. Being able to identify those genetic markers can help doctors treat aggressive forms of neuroblastoma appropriately and prevent overtreatment in children with low-risk neuroblastoma, the study authors said.

So far, the microarray has only been tested in the laboratory.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about neuroblastoma.

SOURCE: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, Aug. 1, 2005
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