Real-time PCR accelerates cancer research

Cancer affects everyone—the young and old, the rich and poor, men, women, and children. It is one of leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million in 2008.1 With the growth and aging of the population according to 2012 figures from the American Cancer Society, Inc. this is expected to climb to 13.2 million by 2030. 2 But if detected early, many of these deaths can be avoided with effective treatment.

Today, quantitative PCR (qPCR) application has reached a level of sensitivity, accuracy, and ease to support use as a routine assay for measuring gene level expression. The field of cancer research is currently validating a number of applications showing that qPCR can be a reliable tool for both researchers and clinicians to understand the molecular mechanisms of tumor development and how tumors spread.3

The range of qPCR applications that can be utilized in cancer research is extensive; in patients with leukemia and lymphoma, relapse with residual tumor cells are common after initial treatment; unlike the standard PCR method, qPCR has been used for detecting tumor-specific fusion products to identify high-risk patients who might benefit from further treatment.4 qPCR has been used to analyze the biological differences between tumors that account for variations in morphology and clinical behavior. Quantitative PCR is playing an increasingly important role in clinical testing, providing information about gene expression, gene amplification or loss, and small alterations. It is also being used for detection and quantification of viral causes of cancer such as human papillomavirus.5

The use of qPCR has proven to be an extremely valuable tool in cancer research due to its objectivity, speed, versatility, and cost-effectiveness.6 In fact, for the molecular detection of rare tumor cells in clinical samples, quantitative PCR offers researchersthe ability to find the ‘needle in the haystack.’ At Life Technologies, a number of qPCR systems, assays and solutions are now available to meet the challenges of cancer research and to help translate your research to the clinical applications of the future.


  1. Ferlay J, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v2.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from:, accessed on day/month/year.
  2. Cancer facts and figures (2012)  American Cancer Society. [Internet]
  3. Mocellin S et al.  (2003) Quantitative real-time PCR: a powerful ally in cancer research. Trends  Mol Med 9(5):189-195.
  4. Verhagen OJ et al. (2000) Application of germline IGH probes in real-time quantitative PCR for the detection of minimal residual disease in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Leukemia 14:1426-1435.
  5. Tucker RA et al. (2001) Real-time PCR-based fluorescent assay for quantitation of human papillomavirus types 6, 11, 16, and 18. Mol Diagn 6:39-47. 
  6. Bernard PS,  Wittwer CT (2002) Real-Time PCR Technology for Cancer Diagnostics. Clin Chem 48(8):1178-1185.