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Cancer cytogenetics: methods and protocols
  1. L Willatt

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    Edited by J Swansbury. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 2003, £70 (US$89.50), pp 296. ISBN 1588290808

    The value of cytogenetic studies for diagnosis and prognosis in malignancy is well established and this book sets out to provide the information required to set up a successful diagnostic laboratory in this challenging branch of cytogenetics. Unlike the other volumes in the Methods in Molecular Biology™ series, the emphasis in this book is on the establishment of a complete diagnostic service rather than simply listing methodologies and protocols for the technical aspects of this work. The book includes advice on the training of staff, the interpretation of findings, and the appropriate focus for limited resources in view of the rapidly increasing demand for diagnostic cytogenetic studies in malignancy.

    The format of the book is very straightforward with a chapter on the background relating to a disease, for example myeloid disorders, followed by a chapter on the cytogenetic techniques required for the investigation of that disease. Following the introductory chapter, all of the common haematological malignancies are covered in the first eight chapters. These are followed with two chapters on the background and technical aspects of solid tumour cytogenetics. The next chapter provides some excellent advice on the analysis and interpretation of cytogenetic findings in malignancy. The following section of four chapters covers the emerging fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) technologies and their application to haematological cytogenetics. These are followed by a very interesting chapter discussing the difficult choices to be made when trying to balance the differing requirements of research and diagnostic work and funding of new technologies. The final chapter provides valuable basic guidance on chromosome recognition, the most fundamental skill in cytogenetics. Curiously, though, this chapter does not include a picture of a normal karyotype. This book does not cover the complementary molecular techniques involved in malignancy genetics and the molecular cytogenetic aspects of leucaemia cytogenetics are not as well covered as the routine chromosome analysis. For example, there is a chapter on FISH for acute lymphoblastic disorders, but no chapter on the application of FISH in myeloid disorders. However, this book concentrates more on the options available and the problems associated with FISH in the laboratory, and the technical aspects are more comprehensively covered in the companion volume, Molecular cytogenetics: protocols and applications, which is volume 204 in the Methods in Molecular Biology™ series. A minor irritation I found with this book was in the proof reading (or lack of it). As well as minor typographical errors, I found a repeated sentence and on one page, whole chromosome paints referred to alternately as “WCPs” and “WPCs”. This could cause confusion to the reader and in a book describing technical procedures, errors such as a misplaced decimal point may have significant consequences.

    There are 10 renowned contributors to this volume. However, 11 of the 18 chapters, including all the background chapters, have been written by the editor, John Swansbury. I think with his wealth of experience, thoughtful approach, and pleasant writing style this adds to the value of this book, which reads well. Although this book is more appropriate for individuals or laboratories starting out in this field of malignancy cytogenetics, with its up to date references and valuable advice, it deserves a place on the bookshelf of all cancer cytogenetic laboratories.

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