Breakthrough study creates 3D genetic map of prostate cancer like never before

Current techniques for studying the genetics of cells within tumors involve taking a sample from the cancerous area and analyzing the DNA of those cells. The problem is that many cancers, such as prostate cancer, are three-dimensional, meaning that any sample would only give a small snapshot of the tumor.

With current techniques for studying the genetics of cells restricted to analyzing cancerous DNA samples in 2D snapshots, the novel spatial transcriptomics technology adds resolution like never before. Many cancers, including prostate cancer, are three-dimensional, further consolidating the knowledge gap that comes with current state-of-the-art techniques. Cancer starts with a genetic mutation, so there is a need to optimize the understanding of these cellular changes. Spatial transcriptomics enabled scientists to achieve an unprecedented ability to group cells according to similar genetic identities. One surprising find was that the new technique revealed that much healthy tissue had already shown genetic characteristics usually identified with cancer.

“We have found that many of the copy number events we previously thought to be linked specifically to cancer are actually already present in benign tissue. This has big implications for diagnosis and also potentially for deciding which bits of cancer need treating,” Dr. Lamp further explained.

The research, funded by Cancer Research UK, included the analysis of more than 150,000 regions in three prostates amongst other cancers, such as breast and brain tissue. Remarkably, the novel spatial transcriptomics approach enabled scientists to observe genetic variation even to a resolution where individual genes could be seen, thus creating a detailed landscape of tissues.

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