New possibilities for 'personalised' cancer treatment

In a collaborative study with US company Orion Genomics, University of Glasgow researcher Professor Robert Brown is developing innovative tests with the potential to enable early diagnosis of cancer and identify patients who may particularly benefit from new cancer treatments. These developments could mean much speedier and more effective treatment.

By using cutting edge technology, the collaborative study - working together with clinical trial groups and with support from Cancer Research UK - will analyse specific markers in cell DNA (methylation) to gather information for the detection and treatment of cancers of the lung, breast and ovaries. Signs of abnormal methylation often indicate cancerous cells and the study will compare these cells with normal cells to identify how methylation can provide novel information about the pathology of tumours.

Professor Brown explains: 'This research has the potential to substantially change the way physicians first diagnose and later treat cancer patients. By analysing methylation of tumour cells it may be possible for doctors to choose the most appropriate form of treatment, thus helping get more effective drugs into patients quicker and reducing the risk of time wasted on ineffective treatments. The methylation technologies may prove to be extremely powerful in helping improve the outcome for cancer patients, particularly in clinical trials of novel agents'.

Kate Richardson (

For more information please contact the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email

About DNA Methylation:
Each cell in the body must store, express and copy DNA that is approximately two meters long, which is 200,000 times the width of the cell. An elaborate mechanism for packaging the DNA is required by the body to store it. DNA methylation is a chemical modification of cystosine, one of the DNA building blocks, that when found in cystosine rich islands of DNA is associated with how genes are switched on and off. Genes that are not being can be methylated so that they are unexpressed or effectively silent. By contrast, genes that are needed are not methylated. DNA methylation is stable, detectable, quantifiable, and heritable. Aberrant DNA methylation of cells is a major factor in the presence of disease such as cancer, and is a rich source of biomarkers for novel diagnostic tests

First published: 20 January 2006

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