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Cancer detection focus of study. (Special Report: Biotechnology/Health Industry).

Scientists at Genesis Genomics are studying over 300 prostate cancer patients for the purpose of targeting non-nuclear DNA for early detection of cancer.

Presently researchers "are in the process of working on the DNA results of 40 (patients)," says Dr. Ryan Parr, vice-president of research and development at the Genesis Genomics research facility in Thunder Bay.

Through blood work, scientists will also obtain information on another form of DNA called the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

"We are looking for broader applications for mitochondrial DNA," he adds.

Parr says there are two types of DNA in a cell: the nuclear DNA and the mitochondrial (mtDNA). The nuclear DNA holds information equivalent to 50 sets of encyclopedias.

"You inherit this from your mom and dad," with 25 sets coming from each parent, he explains.

However, there is a particular DNA inherited exclusively from the mother. That is the mitochondrial DNA.

"It lives in the mitochondria just outside nuclear cells called cytoplasm," Parr explains. "The mitochondria are the power cells of the cell. They take whatever food you eat and turn it into energy."

"(mtDNA) is small, but important because it works with information from the nucleus (nuclear DNA)."

In fact, out of the storage information warehouse from the nuclear DNA, 10 per cent is used strictly for mtDNA. Through generations of females, the mtDNA chemistry or the spelling remains the same, however, when a person develops a condition like cancer, the mtDNA rearranges its pattern.

Already Parr can observe differences in the mtDNA rearrangement of sequence in malignant or benign tumours of the 40 volunteered patients.

The next step is to find out what all this means at the clinical level, Parr says.

This research is different from the test that determines whether they carry the cancer gene, Parr says. By examining the mtDNA, Parr says they could determine a cancer presence even before it grows.

"We kind of liken it to a DNA physical."

Previous studies show that the mtDNA alters decades before physical signs begin to appear, Parr says.

Last year the American Association of Cancer stated there was a 20- to 30-year window that specialists may be able to treat precancers, he adds.

When all 300 of the prostate cancer patient's DNA, including patterns associated with mtDNA, has been accumulated, scientists will develop highly sensitive diagnostic devices to assist in detecting pre-cancers, since early tumours are more responsive to treatment.
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Title Annotation:Genesis Genomics studying over 300 prostate cancer patients
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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