Molecular diagnosis of gastric cancer: present and future
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Although histopathological diagnosis is extremely useful for the definitive as well as the supportive diagnosis of gastric cancer in clinical practice, it is limited in certain respects. Over the past 15 years, integrated research in molecular pathology has clarified the details of genetic and epigenetic abnormalities of cancer-related genes in the course of the development and progression of gastric cancer. These abnormalities, which include telomerase activation, genetic instability, and abnormalities in oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, cell-cycle regulators, cell adhesion molecules, and DNA repair genes, could be effective markers in the molecular diagnosis of gastric cancer. It is possible that the molecular analysis of these alterations in histopathology specimens may overcome deficiencies in diagnoses that depend only on histomorphology, and, consequently, we may be able to improve the differential diagnosis of cancer, obtain information on the grade of malignancy, and identify patients at high risk of developing multiple primary cancers. In Hiroshima, we have established a system of molecular-pathological diagnosis as a routine service; about 5000 lesions of the stomach have been subjected to this diagnosis, and much useful information has been obtained. In the near future, genetic analysis by means of DNA microarray may become routine in the diagnosis of gastric cancer. Genetic analysis of histopathology specimens may make clear the characteristics of individual cancers; indicating the common and specific features of molecular pathogenesis that may be directly connected with gene therapy or molecular-targeted therapy. By analyzing the relationship between single-nucleotide polymorphisms and cancer susceptibility, we will be able to obtain information on cancer prevention from histopathology samples.