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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
DNA test 'boosts Hodgkin's fight'
The test could provide an alternative to microscope diagnoses
British scientists are developing a new test for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham believe the test could transform the way the disease - a type of cancer of the blood - is treated.

They are hoping to use new technology, called DNA micro arrays, to provide a complete genetic profile of an individual's disease.

They believe the technique could enable doctors to tailor-make treatments for people with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Each micro array - a transparent slide no bigger than a small child's palm - provides scientists with a read-out of the thousands of genes in a single cancer sample.

The colour read-out depicts the status of each gene in the cell - the so-called gene expression.

This is really exciting research
Dr David Grant,
Leukaemia Research
"Traditionally, doctors treating children with Hodgkin's lymphoma examine the cancer cells under a microscope," said Dr Richard Grundy, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham.

"While this has been a successful way of diagnosing Hodgkin's lymphoma, it does not tell doctors any further information about that child's disease or how he/she is likely to respond to chemotherapy.

"This is why a much more sensitive prognostic tool was required."

Detailed portrait

The researchers believe this new DNA technology could bridge the gap.

"The micro array technology will enable us, for the first time, to create a detailed portrait of an individual's disease," said Dr Paul Murray, one of those involved in the work.

"Tumours that behave differently can sometimes look the same under a microscope, but when you look at gene expression, it is possible to pick up differences that might help to predict how tumours will behave or whether they will respond to treatment."

The scientists believe the technology can be used by doctors to decide what treatments patients should receive.

"In the long-term by comparing a patient's profile to their response to treatment, this may help to identify those children whose disease could be safely treated with less treatment and those cases which may relapse, in which case different treatment strategies might be adopted from the start," said Dr Grundy.

"The judicious use of intensive therapy for those with an 'aggressive genetic profile' and minimisation of treatment for tumours with a favourable genetic profile would be a major step forward."

The scientists have received a grant of 110,000 from Leukaemia Research and 36,000 from Birmingham Children's Hospital Research Foundation towards the work.

"This is really exciting research," said Dr David Grant, scientific director of Leukaemia Research.

"Leukaemia Research has made a big investment in cataloguing the different gene expression patterns in the different cancers of the blood.

"This is leading to much more accurate, almost patient-specific, diagnosis of each person's cancer, which in turn is stimulating new ideas in selective and effective treatments."

Leukaemias and lymphomas
17 Mar 00  |  C-D

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