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Health Agencies Update
March 15, 2000

Look-alike Cancers

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JAMA. 2000;283(11):1413. doi:10.1001/jama.283.11.1413-JHA00001-3-1

With the help of a powerful new technology that reveals which genes are active in different kinds of cells, researchers have discovered that diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, is actually two biologically distinct diseases with different prognoses. The report appears in the January 27 issue of Nature.

In the study, led by Louis Staudt, MD, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, researchers used microarrays, or "DNA chips," to measure the activity of more than 18,000 genes, many of which are uniquely expressed in immune B cells. The researchers' analysis revealed two distinct patterns of gene expression in patient specimens that correlated with response to treatment: three fourths of patients whose cancer cells showed one pattern were alive after 5 years, while fewer than one fourth of patients whose cancer cells had the other distinct pattern of gene activity were still living.