This year, saw the start of a new research trial at Aberdeen University. The scientists are studying gullet (oseophageal) and stomach (gastric) cancer. They are recruiting people from the North East of Scotland.
This research is trying to find out which patients will get a benefit from chemotherapy and which patients won’t.
The scientists are going to measure 35,000 genes in each patient before and after chemotherapy and see what changes. These are difficult experiments to do, the scientists will use a “gene chip” or microarray and put samples of DNA from each patient on a chip. One of the hardest parts of this experiment is analysing the results. Some genes will change because of the cancer or chemotherapy, but some might change anyway (i.e. non specific) so the scientists need to work out which changes are important and then try and figure out why.
These sort of experiments tell us a lot of information but they are very expensive to do, this research which is being lead by Dr Russell Petty is being funded by the Aberdeen charity, Friends of Anchor and will cost £220, 000.
If you have a broadband internet connection please have a look at the DNA Microarray Virtual Lab, created by the University of Utah (at the excellent Genetic Science Learning Centre). This is an excellent computer program that explains all the equipment you need to perform a microarray experiment (you can see why it is expensive) and it will show you how microarrays can be used to study normal cells and cancer cells. It will take 15-30 minutes to work through the whole thing, but you can go as quickly or slowly as you like and you can always leave it and come back to it (it’s much easier to do this with a computer program than the real thing!!) Please let me know if you find the Virtual Microarray useful.