Background: The ability to detect neoplasia-specific fusion genes is important not only in cancer research, but also increasingly in clinical settings to ensure that correct diagnosis is made and the optimal treatment is chosen. However, the available methodologies to detect such fusions all have their distinct short-comings.
Results: We describe a novel oligonucleotide microarray strategy whereby one can screen for all known oncogenic fusion transcripts in a single experiment. To accomplish this, we combine measurements of chimeric transcript junctions with exon-wise measurements of individual fusion partners. To demonstrate the usefulness of the approach, we designed a DNA microarray containing 68,861 oligonucleotide probes that includes oligos covering all combinations of chimeric exon-exon junctions from 275 pairs of fusion genes, as well as sets of oligos internal to all the exons of the fusion partners. Using this array, proof of principle was demonstrated by detection of known fusion genes (such as TCF3:PBX1, ETV6:RUNX1, and TMPRSS2:ERG) from all six positive controls consisting of leukemia cell lines and prostate cancer biopsies.
Conclusion: This new method bears promise of an important complement to currently used diagnostic and research tools for the detection of fusion genes in neoplastic diseases.