Breast cancer is a complex genetic disease characterized by the accumulation of multiple molecular alterations. The resulting clinical heterogeneity makes current diagnostic and therapeutic strategies less than perfectly adapted to each patient. Pathological and clinical factors are insufficient to capture the complex cascade of events that drive the clinical behavior of tumors. High-throughput molecular technologies provide novel tools to tackle this complexity. In particular, DNA arrays allow the simultaneous and quantitative analysis of the mRNA expression levels of thousands of genes in a single assay. Potential applications are multiple in the cancer field and the first research results are promising; comprehensive gene expression profiles of breast tumors are providing insights into mammary oncogenesis and are revealing new tumor subgroups previously indistinguishable. Significant advances will be the identification of new diagnostic, prognostic and predictive biomarkers as well as the discovery of new potential therapeutic targets. This review presents recent applications of DNA arrays in breast cancer research and discusses some issues to address in the near future to allow the technology to reach its full potential.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.