GE Global Research and Eli Lilly have announced the development of a new tissue-based biomarker technology that can, for the first time, simultaneously map more than 25 proteins in tumours at the sub-cellular level.

The breakthrough is an important milestone for cancer research as at the moment the diagnosis of cancer and subsequent treatment decisions are often based on the expression of just one or two biomarkers.

With this new molecular pathology technology researchers will be able to look at a visual map of the tissue sample, revealing a cancer cell’s comprehensive biomarker signalling pathway and the interplay of signalling networks inside the tumour.

The new technology has already been tested successfully on colon and prostate cancer tissue samples and the companies believe it to be applicable to all types of cancer.

GE Global Research senior vice-president and director Mark Little said that this new approach to molecular pathology unlocks information that has been hidden from doctors.

“Our new mapping technology is designed to bring new therapies to market faster and to make sure that the right patients get the right medicines,” Little said.

The prototype system is capable of staining, washing and re-staining tissue samples for study under a digital microscope. The system combines image analysis of cancerous cells and structures with GE’s patented visualisation tools to provide a colour map of protein concentrations within the sample.