St. Luke's University Health Network


Gene-Chip Technology

St. Luke’s Cancer Research Lab Uses Gene-Chip Technology

Advanced System Positions St. Luke’s as the Region’s Leading Hospital Involved with  Translational Cancer Research

Above, Dr. Riley holds the newest Illumina chip
being used in the St. Luke’s Cancer Research
Lab.  Each of the 12 squares on the chip can
determine the amount of each of the 25,000
genes in a patient's tumor.  This chip allows us
to check 12 patients or samples at a time now,
which is much improved over even a year ago
in this field, according to Dr. Riley.

Bethlehem, PA (1/10/2011) - Recently, a very unique and exciting piece of equipment called the Illumina BeadArray Reader was purchased for St. Luke’s Cancer Research Lab. It’s an innovative technology that will position St. Luke’s as the region’s leading hospital involved with translational cancer research, according to Lee B. Riley, MD, PhD, FACS, Medical Director of Oncology and Director of Surgical Research for St. Luke’s Hospital & Health Network.

The key is gene-chip technology. This fully confocal microarray scanning system works in concert with Illumina BeadChips, giving researchers the ability to scan Infinium and GoldenGate Genotyping products.  “Amazingly, the one-inch gene-chip can evaluate the expression of all 25,000 human genes from a sample,” says Dr. Riley.

The completion of the human genome project changed the research world over the last decade. “Now this equipment, coupled with gene-chip technology, is changing the clinical world as well,” says Dr. Riley. “Importantly, the knowledge gained from genomic research can lead to scientific discoveries and clinical applications that may ultimately reduce cancer incidence and improve survivorship.”

Sampling the tumor bank for genomic clues

This past year, St. Luke’s piloted a program to acquire and preserve nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) from patients’ tumors. “This limited tumor bank is now being extended to a larger set of patients,” says Dr. Riley. “Additionally, we have started extracting RNA from cancer samples stored in paraffin. Because St. Luke's preserves cancer samples for 10 years, we have access to the ‘genomic finger prints’ of an estimated 20,000 cancers.”

The potential to extract genomic info rmation from over 20,000 cancers and 10-year cancer-outcome data, including survival and recurrence data, provides St. Luke’s with an immense research resource.  “Over the past six months, we have demonstrated we can extract and preserve the genetic material from fresh and preserved cancer tissue,” says Dr. Riley. “We are now poised to utilize the gene-chip equipment.”

St. Luke's is a community facility and follow-up clinical info rmation has been superb. “It’s worth noting St. Luke’s cancer program received the highest honor from the American College of Surgeons for the quality of their clinical follow-up,” says Dr. Riley.

Additional benefits

The BeadArray Reader will be available to medical students, residents and physicians who want to develop their research, expand their knowledge and advance their careers.

Beyond the clinical applications, it also has an economic benefit. “Now that this equipment is on site, we will be able to save considerably by not outsourcing our genomic material at the current cost of $2,000 per patient,” says Dr. Riley. “This allows us to perform the gene analysis in-house for an estimated $200 per patient.”

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