Scientific advances

All cancers arise as a result of changes in genes that regulate cell growth and behaviour; DNA research now offers the greatest potential for the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. Molecular medicine is thus concerned with turning genes into new therapeutic targets. Developing and applying molecular technologies is the key to a new understanding of cancer.

Molecular techniques comprise two groups: lysate and analysis and in situ analysis.

♦ With lysate methods, tumour biopsies are homogenized and spatial relationships between tumour cells are destroyed (Southern blot analysis and PCR). This leads to loss of information on heterogeneity and small subpopulations and an averaging of changes. However, quantitation can be simpler and more accurate than in situ approaches.

♦ In situ techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) allow the genetic make-up of individual cells within their histological context to be visualized.

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