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IDing Cancer with 3-D Genomics

In a proof-of-principle study, scientists show that the three-dimensional shape of a cancer cell genome can reliably classify subtypes of human leukemia.

By | May 7, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, VASHIDONSKResearchers from McGill University have shown that chromatin conformation of the DNA found in cancer cells can be used to classify subtypes of human leukemia. Their work was published in Genome Biology last week (April 30).

The researchers assessed the 3-D conformation of genomes within leukemia cell lines, finding that this shape was as good at—or better than—indicating the type of cancer as gene expression.

“Our study validates a new research avenue—the application of 3-D genomics for developing medical diagnostics or treatments that could be explored for diseases where current technologies, including gene expression data, have failed to improve patient care,” study coauthor Josée Dostie, an associate professor of genomics and molecular biology at McGill, said in a statement.

But the approach is far from ready for the clinic, Musa Mhlanga from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa told New Scientist. “The big caveat here is that to do these chromatin-confirmation studies at high resolution you need millions of cells,” he said. “You can’t get this from a tumor biopsy.”

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