October 20, 2008

Genetics Predicts Liver Cancer Recurrence

A U.S.-led group of international medical scientists says new technology might enable genetics to predict if a person's liver cancer is likely to recur.

The technology, developed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md., allows scientists to reconstruct thousands of genes that are "shredded" into tiny pieces when tissue samples are treated with a chemical fixative and stored in wax -- a protocol commonly used to preserve the samples.

The scientists said they tested the new technique on liver tissue samples from 307 patients. Using the sophisticated new microarray technology, the scientists studied RNA from stored liver tissue samples and identified a tell-tale genetic profile that indicates whether liver cancer will recur.

The researchers said they are optimistic oncologists will be able to use such information to determine which liver cancer patients would likely suffer recurrence and treat them to help prevent it.

The study, which included scientists from Japan, Spain, Norway and Italy, appeared in the Oct. 15 advance online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.