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Bioinformatics and breast cancer: What can high-throughput genomic approaches actually tell us?
  1. Andrew Sims (andrew.sims{at}
  1. Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, United Kingdom


    High throughput genomic technology has rapidly become a major tool for the study of breast cancer. Gene expression profiling has been applied to many areas of research from basic science to translational studies, with the potential to identify new targets for treatment, mechanisms of resistance and to improve on current tools for the analysis of prognosis. However, the sheer scale of the data generated along with the number of different protocols, platforms and analysis methods can make these studies difficult for clinicians to comprehend. Similarly, computational scientists and statisticians that may be called upon to analyse the data generated, are often unaware of the processes involved in sample collection or the relevance and impact of genetics and pathological characteristics. There is a pressing need for better understanding of the challenges and limitations of microarray approaches, both in experimental design and data analysis. Holistic, whole-genome approaches are still relatively new and critics have been quick to highlight non-overlapping results from groups testing similar hypotheses. However, it is often subtle differences in the experimental design and technology that underpin the variation between these studies. Rather than indicating that the data are meaningless, this suggests that many findings are real, but highly context dependent. This review explores both the current state and potential of bioinformatics to bring meaning to high-throughput genomic approaches in the understanding of breast cancer.

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