Whole genome expression profiling, or transcriptomics, is a high throughput technology with the potential for major impacts in both clinical settings and drug discovery and diagnostics. In particular, there is much interest in this technique as a mechanism for predicting treatment response. Gene expression profiling entails the quantitative measurement of messenger RNA levels for thousands of genes simultaneously with the inherent possibility of identifying biomarkers of response to a particular therapy or by singling out those at risk of serious adverse events. This technology should contribute to the era of stratified medicine, in which patient specific populations are matched to potentially beneficial drugs via clinical tests. Indeed, in the oncology field, gene expression testing is already recommended to allow rational use of therapies to treat breast cancer. However, there are still many issues surrounding the use of the various testing platforms available and the statistical analysis associated with the interpretation of results generated. This review will discuss the implications this promising technology has in predicting treatment response and outline the various advantages and pitfalls associated with its use.
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