Cancer’s distinctive pattern of gene expression could aid early screening and prevention

Drs. Huidong Shi (left) and Keith D. Robertson, who study cancer epigenetics, are Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholars. Photo credit: Medical College of Georgia AUGUSTA, Ga. – Distinctive patterns of genes turned off – or left on – in healthy versus cancerous cells could enable early screening for many common cancers and maybe help avoid them, Medical College of Georgia scientists say.

Researchers are comparing chemical alterations, called DNA methylation, in the body’s basic building block in healthy colon, breast, brain and lymphatic cells and their cancerous counterpart to find telltale patterns that could one day be detected in the blood, urine or feces.

The patterns could give patients a heads up that lifestyle changes, or more severe intervention, is in order, says Dr. Kapil Bhalla, director of the MCG Cancer Center, Cecil F. Whitaker Jr., M.D./Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Cancer and Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar.

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