Medical molecular biology is a relatively recent discipline, and has known spectacular progress during the past decade. The Molecular Pathology group at the Jewish General Hospital provides specialized advanced analytical methods for the detection of mutations associated with various diseases, including several types of tumours.
Many diseases such as cancer, are caused by mutations or alterations in the genetic code of a person, and identification of specific hallmark mutations allows the clinicians to classify a disease and choose the appropriate treatment. The high levels of sensitivity provided by molecular assays can also detect very small tumours, either novel or persistent, that are otherwise undetectable by other means. Molecular analysis also allows us to predict a patient’s response to certain anti-cancer therapy based on his genetic make-up, or another patient’s risk of developing potentially life-threatening diseases, such as deep-vein thrombosis or colon cancer. Sophisticated methods permit us to determine the degree of engraftment of donor stem cells during bone marrow transplantation, while quantitation of gene activity allows us to predict tumour relapse in certain leukemias or the degree of persistent minimal residual disease after treatment. We have also implemented molecular assays to detect various infectious agents, such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the influenza virus.
Since the same molecular biology principles apply to all living organisms, the same technology can be used in various medical fields. Thus, our laboratory is multidisciplinary, providing diagnostic services to several departments, including genetics, oncology, pathology, hematology, and microbiology, among others.
The Molecular Pathology team uses state-of-the-art technology and instrumentation, such as automated DNA extractors, real-time PCR cyclers, an automated DNA sequencer, a high-resolution melt-curve analyzer and a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) system. We have also set up a large bank of tumour tissue samples that is an invaluable tool for researchers. The laboratory provides molecular pathology services to the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and other hospitals across the province of Quebec.