DNA Expression Profiling: A New Lens on Cancer

Lumps, bumps, and unusual marks have long heralded cancer, from a bulging jaw in an australopithecine fossil, to traces of melanoma in a 2,400-year-old Incan mummy, to the frightening discovery of a dimpled breast today. Since the 1970s, a portrait of carcinogenesis has emerged from a series of genetic insults that pushed cells to proliferate, invade, and spread. Today, gene expression profiling is expanding that view to embrace a waxing and waning of protein levels that provide a dynamic bac

Ricki Lewis
Sep 21, 2003

Lumps, bumps, and unusual marks have long heralded cancer, from a bulging jaw in an australopithecine fossil, to traces of melanoma in a 2,400-year-old Incan mummy, to the frightening discovery of a dimpled breast today. Since the 1970s, a portrait of carcinogenesis has emerged from a series of genetic insults that pushed cells to proliferate, invade, and spread. Today, gene expression profiling is expanding that view to embrace a waxing and waning of protein levels that provide a dynamic backdrop to the choreography of cancer. And charting those changes may have predictive value.

"Microarray-based gene expression analyses are showing us that we probably do not have a firm understanding of the stages of carcinogenesis and metastasis. Individual cancers are likely to have metastatic potential very early in their natural history," says Jeffrey Boyd, director of the gynecological and breast research laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. That...