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DNA microarrays used to profile kidney cancer
Edward R. Winstead


German scientists have identified 1,700 genes whose expression changes during kidney cancer. The researchers used DNA microarrays to profile gene expression in healthy cells and tumor cells from individuals with renal cell carcinoma. The altered genes are potential targets for new therapies and may serve as markers for kidney cancer.

Detail of graphs showing gene expression trends. View larger

Annemarie Poustka, of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, led the study. The researchers profiled gene expression in 37 kidney cancer patients at different stages of the disease. The microarrays contained about 30,000 unique DNA sequences, representing one of the largest sets of human genes used in expression profiling to date.

"Our study has yielded a well-annotated list of genes that are differentially expressed in renal cell carcinoma," the researchers write in Genome Research. They add that insights into the molecular changes are likely to come from the discovery of more subtle, rather than extreme changes in gene expression.

The researchers found evidence that the subjects may have actually had one of two different types of renal cell carcinoma despite their similar clinical symptoms. In recent years, microarray data have led to new classifications of large B-cell lymphomas with very different disease outcomes. New types of leukemias have also been identified based on gene expression profiles.

Poustka and colleagues have used the current data to design a kidney-specific microarray that will facilitate the screening of many more samples. This may ultimately lead to new clinical classifications of renal cell carcinoma based on gene expression profiles.

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Boer, J.M. et al. Identification and classification of differentially expressed genes in renal cell carcinoma by expression profiling on a global human 31,500-element cDNA array. Genome Res 11, 1861-1870 (November 2001).

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