Stability and Heterogeneity of Expression Profiles in Lung Cancer Specimens Harvested Following Surgical Resection
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One of the major concerns in microarray profiling studies of clinical samples is the effect of tissue sampling and RNA extraction on data. We analyzed gene expression in lung cancer specimens that were serially harvested from tumor mass and snap-frozen at several intervals up to 120 minutes after surgical resection. Global gene expression was profiled on cDNA microarrays, and selected stress and hypoxia-activated genes were evaluated using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Remarkably, similar gene expression profiles were obtained for the majority of samples regardless of the time that had elapsed between resection and freezing. Real-time RT-PCR studies showed significant heterogeneity in the expression levels of stress and hypoxia-activated genes in samples obtained from different areas of a tumor specimen at one time point after resection. The variations between multiple samplings were significantly greater than those of elapsed time between sampling/freezing. Overall samples snap-frozen within 30 to 60 minutes of surgical resection are acceptable for gene expression studies, thus making sampling and snap-freezing of tumor samples in a routine surgical pathology laboratory setting feasible. However, sampling and pooling from multiple sites of each tumor may be necessary for expression profiling studies to overcome the molecular heterogeneity present in tumor specimens.
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