In 1996, Jeff Trent and colleagues published the first paper describing DNA microarrays as tools for pinpointing gene variants underlying various tumor properties.1 Now, as president and scientific director of Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN), in Phoenix, Trent is using microarrays to look for gene expression patterns that can be applied to developing diagnostics.

The role of microarrays, Trent says, "will be on the discovery side. Testing all 30,000 genes against a diagnostic specimen is prohibitively expensive." Therefore, thousands of genes will be winnowed down to small sets. These, says Trent, "are very strong discriminators of whatever you're interested in," such as distinguishing tumors that will respond to a drug from those that won't, or diagnosing stage I versus stage II, or invasive versus noninvasive.

Prediction based on just one gene--higher expression for response, perhaps, lower for nonresponse--is impossible, Trent says. "One gene is incapable of having enough information...

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