As cancer treatment approaches an era of personalized medicine, in which care is tailored to the molecular traits of a person's tumor, success will depend on discovering distinct genetic signatures within cancer cells. The Center for Molecular Oncologic Pathology was created to advance collaborative pathology-based research projects that have the potential to result in applications for targeted cancer therapy. To achieve this end, the Center brings together faculty from Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital with molecular oncologic pathology expertise to advance pathology-based, hypothesis-driven research. The Center also develops novel diagnostic and prognostic tests by enabling researchers to apply their knowledge of the molecular biology of cancer to pathology.
Currently, the Center is pioneering the development of quantum-dot immunohistochemistry and FISH by coupling oligonucleotide probes with fluorescent nanoparticles. The probes chosen represent molecular signatures previously identified by gene expression arrays and yield new ways of diagnosing and predicting tumor progression at initial biopsy. The Center has utilized phosphoprotein immunohistochemistry to detect proteins that are active in pathways driving tumor initiation and progression, allowing prediction of patient response to kinase inhibitor therapy. Furthermore, it has developed an ex-vivo, short-term, culture model system. This system allows for pharmacodynamic profiling of a patient's tumor with preclinical prediction of response to chemotherapy. It has also generated xenograft mouse models, derived from resected primary organ-confined human tumors, that now serve as models for gene discovery or drug testing. These tools will ultimately be translated into diagnostic clinical assays, thereby providing the means to improve therapy selection for cancer patients.