NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 8,573 terms related to cancer and medicine.

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polymerase chain reaction
(puh-LIH-meh-rays chayn ree-AK-shun)
A laboratory method used to make many copies of a specific piece of DNA from a sample that contains very tiny amounts of that DNA. Polymerase chain reaction allows these pieces of DNA to be amplified so they can be detected. Polymerase chain reaction may be used to look for certain changes in a gene or chromosome, which may help find and diagnose a genetic condition or a disease, such as cancer. It may also be used to look at pieces of the DNA of certain bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms to help diagnose an infection. Also called PCR.