VBI Technology Pinpoints Genetic Differences In Cancer Patients
A group of researchers led by scientists from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech have developed a new technology that detects distinct genetic changes differentiating cancer patients from healthy individuals. The advancement could even serve as a future cancer predisposition test.
“We have now arrived at a new biomarker – an indicator that could be used to evaluate the amount of risk that you have for developing cancer in the future,” explained Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Executive Director Harold “Skip” Garner, who also leads the institute’s Medical Informatics and Systems Division.
The multidisciplinary team has created a design for a new DNA microarray that allows them to measure the 2 million microsatellites (short, repetitive DNA sequences) found within the human genome. Microsatellites, which tend to vary greatly among individuals and have traditionally been used in forensics and paternity tests, are also used to uncover information related to a number of other genetic diseases such as Fragile-X or Huntington’s disease.
This advancement aided the discovery of a unique pattern of microsatellite variation in breast cancer patients that were not present in the DNA of patients who are cancer-free. Through their evaluation of global changes in the genome, the researchers determined that this pattern change alludes to a new mechanism disrupting the genome in cancer patients and represents a new breast cancer risk biomarker. There are indications that this could also serve as a general cancer signature.
The results of the work, which includes contributions from researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, will be featured in an upcoming edition of the journal Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer. The study is currently available online.