Tissue microarrays (TMAs) for high-throughput molecular pathology research

Int J Cancer. 2001 Oct 1;94(1):1-5. doi: 10.1002/ijc.1385.


A rapidly increasing number of genes are being suspected to play a role in cancer biology. To evaluate the clinical significance of newly detected potential cancer genes, it is usually required to examine a high number of well-characterized primary tumors. Using traditional methods of molecular pathology, this is a time consuming endeavor rapidly exhausting precious tissue resources. To allow for a high throughput tissue analysis we have developed a "tissue chip" approach (Kononen et al., Nat. Med. 1998;4:844-7). Using this tissue microarray (TMA) technology, samples from up to 1,000 different tumors are arrayed in one recipient paraffin block, sections of which can be used for all kind of in situ analyses. Section from TMA blocks can then be utilized for the simultaneous analysis of up to 1,000 different tumors on the DNA, RNA or protein level. TMAs allow a high throughput molecular analysis of thousands of tumors within a few hours. All currently available data have suggested that minute arrayed tissue specimens are highly representative of their donor tissues. There are multiple different types of TMAs that can be utilized in cancer research including multi tumor arrays (containing different tumor types), tumor progression arrays (tumors of different stages) and prognostic arrays (tumors with clinical endpoints). The combination of multiple different TMAs allows a very quick but comprehensive characterization of biomarkers of interest. We anticipate that the use of TMAs will greatly accelerate the transition of basic research findings to clinical applications.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis*
  • Prognosis