The technique provides more detailed information about the subtle differences in gene activity associated with cancer-causing pathways. In future, that may let doctors tailor cancer treatments to individual patients and better predict disease outcomes.
The research was published May 19 in Nature Genetics.
Mutations in individual cancer-causing genes, called oncogenes, result in reduced or increased activity in hundreds of other interacting genes. Rather than focusing on single genes, this new technique uses a wider view of the many shifts in gene activity that's characteristic of cancers that have a specific genetic cause.
"The gene profiles allow us to be much more precise. Now, we can find subtleties among tumors that we can't see under the microscope and also uncover the biology to better understand the basis of the disease," study co-author Joseph Nevins, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University, says in a news release.
Nevins says this new gene-profiling technique is an example of the power of genomics and statistics in helping develop a personalized approach to medicine.
Here's where you can learn more about cancer genetics.