In years past, extracting useful information from minuscule samples of carefully preserved tissues was problematic to say the least. Recent substantial advancements in molecular biology research have allowed for this once seemingly impossible process to come into scientific fruition. Over the last decade specifically, there has been several large scale research projects that have cataloged the genome changes and alterations found in many different types of cancer. By using these genomic approaches, one can find the molecular response to a given therapy, as well as observe the mechanisms of resistant treatments.
In essence, molecular biology is beginning to understand and catalog, not just which treatments work most effectively, but also why and how they work. By integrating a patients medical history, with the recently gathered molecular data into biorepositories, combined with molecular signatures through tissue procurement, we can now predict a patients potential cancer risk. The biorepository collects, processes, stores and distributes biospecimens, such as breast cancer tissues, to support future scientific investigation. Not only that, we can now formulate a more direct prognosis, as well as compile a case specific plan for a patients most effective treatment.
In order to allow for high throughput analysis of multiple human tissue samples at the same time, a recently developed method called tissue microarray has been developed. A microarray contains a plethora of small representative human tissue samples, from hundreds of different cases assembled on a single histologic slide. This spectacular advancement in oncology, molecular profiling and formalin fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue is allowing for more personalized, case specific approaches to cancer therapy. Due to these advancements in molecular biology and FFPE, mutation profiles are becoming increasingly more evident based on the approaches used in treatment.
In the past, it was unclear as to why some genes, in certain circumstances, would transform healthy cells into tumour cells causing a detrimental situation for the host. By using molecular profiles we can now find the underlying signature of the mutation, or oncogenes for a specific type of cancer and subtype. The correlation and causation of specific treatment resistant cancers are having a new light of scientific inquiry shed upon them due to this ground breaking achievement in molecular profiling and formalin fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue.