Review| Volume 49, ISSUE 8, P2000-2009, May 2013

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Cancer gene expression signatures – The rise and fall?

  • Frederic Chibon
    Tel.: +33 556330443; fax: +33 556330438.
    INSERM U916: Genetic and Biology of Sarcomas, Department of Molecular Pathology, Institut Bergonié, 229 Cours de l’Argonne, CS61283, 33076 Bordeaux Cedex, France
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Published:March 15, 2013DOI:


      A ‘gene expression signature’ can be defined as a single or a combined gene expression alteration with validated specificity in terms of diagnosis, prognosis or prediction of therapeutic response.
      Since the publication of the first signature in the late 90s, high-throughput gene expression analysis has revolutionised genetics over the last 15 years. The scientific community has used this new technology to find responses to these fundamental questions; from understanding tumour biology, to prediction of progression, and treatments to which it will respond.
      Nevertheless, legitimate excitement about the attractiveness of molecular technologies and the promise of discovery-based research should not overlook adherence to the rules of evidence, otherwise it may result in claims that are not meaningful and lead to disappointment. This review will thus focus on the approaches developed to answer these three fundamental questions and the results evidenced both at biological and clinical level. On looking at this huge amount of data that have become increasingly minute, and at times contradictory, we discuss how gene expression signature improve our understanding of cancer biology, our ability to predict progression and response, and finally, our capacity to treat cancers more efficiently.


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