Rapid Genetic Testing Developed

Genetic mutations detected by antibody detection of translocations in microarray

(RxWiki News) Cancer found in children may signify an underlying genetic problem, and in many cases early detection of those underlying genetic problems can help successful treatment of that patient.

This is easier said than done, as many cancers involve thousands of closely related genetic changes. Now a single test has been developed that combines two advanced molecular technologies to allow a simultaneous test for all of the possible mutations. 

"Ask your oncologist about their use of genetic sequencing."

The research team from the University of Utah worked with several other labs to combine the technique known as antibody detection of translocations (ADOT) with microarray technology to create a comprehensive test for Ewing's sarcoma.

The experiment was designed to test for Ewing's first, but with work the technology could be adapted for any other documented condition.

Molecular testing for genetic disorders is not new, but the mutations must be tested one by one, and the tests can be very expensive. Oncologists may not want to order the test if they don't already know the most likely mutation, potentially missing an important diagnosis.

The new technique eliminates both of these problems, and in addition to performing thousands of tests simultaneously, the new ADOT technique is much more forgiving of sample quality, an important factor outside of a laboratory.

The team from the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute was led by Dr. Lessnick M.D., Ph.D.,  and is currently looking for an commercial partner to fund development of the test for other genetic disorders.

Dr. Lessnick states that the technology could be easily adapted for any of the other cancers or genetic disorders caused by a wide range of genetic mutations.

“We’re moving past the age when a pathologist looking through the microscope at a tumor sample is the best way to diagnose what type of cancer it is,” said Dr. Lessnick.

“The molecular tests currently available are slow, inefficient, and expensive, and one of the biggest issues is that you need high-quality tumor samples, not always available in the clinical setting, to do them.”

“With this method, there’s potential to develop a single array that could test for every known cancer-causing translocation simultaneously. Currently, a clinician has to decide beforehand which specific cancer to test,” Dr. Lessnick said.

The current technology for molecular tests is expensive to operate, and is not available in many hospitals. Preliminary testing of the ADOT technique showed great sensitivity in the technique even with small tumor sample sizes.

Research was published in March's edition of the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Funding for this research was provided by several grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the group Sidney’s Incredible Defeat of Ewing’s Sarcoma (SIDES), as well as support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Review Date: 
March 28, 2012