12:00 AM
 | 
Sep 10, 2001
 |  BioCentury  |  Tools & Techniques

Plucking out early signs of cancer

Easy presymptomatic diagnosis of cancer is a medical dream. Epigenomics AG believes that it has moved one step closer to reality, identifying more than 200 methylated sequence tags (MeSTs) in colon cancer that are different from healthy individuals. Even more important, they can be detected easily in tissue, serum and stool.

"Aberrant DNA methylation is one of the most frequent events in cancer," said CEO Alexander Olek. "It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that the methylation or demethylation of genes can lead to the silencing of tumor suppressors, or switch on genes that promote invasive growth."

As a result, many research groups have tried to determine changes in expression patterns, and it is in fact possible to precisely determine a tumor class by gene expression analysis. However, Olek noted, these methods have disadvantages that prevent their development into diagnostic tools suitable for population screening. "Expression analysis relies on mRNA and proteins, which are very unstable molecules. Hence it cannot be performed from samples conserved by paraffin, alcohol or formalin. And so far it is not possible to detect very subtle changes...

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