A breakthrough research says breast cancer is effectively ten different diseases, each with its own genetic signature and pattern of weak spots. The biggest study of its kind could revolutionize the diagnosis and prognosis of the disease and could pave the way for individualized, tailored treatment.
A team of researchers involving, Prof Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK and Prof Sam Aparicio from the British Columbia Cancer Centre in Canada, unearthed the critical new information about breast cancer. The team examined the DNA and RNA of breast tumour samples from two thousand women, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer ten years back.
This analysis was compared with the survival of women to other information such as age of woman at the time of diagnosis. They identified new patterns and clusters which were not marked before. The study suggested that people need to juggle around with breast cancer and begin to look at it as least ten different diseases, each having its own molecular fingerprint and pattern of weak spots.
Despite great strides in breast cancer in recent years, this disease is still one of biggest killers, which claims thousands of the lives each year. The exquisitely detailed analysis also revealed several new genes that force the growth and spread of the disease. Information on the genetics of each type of the disease will also accelerate the development of drugs.
It allows women to have treatments tailored to their tumour. Dr Harpal Singh, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, stated the study was the culmination of decades of research. This really changes the way they think about breast cancer, no longer as one disease but actually as ten quite distinct diseases, reliant on which genes are switched on and off for an individual woman.
The study will help them make a much more precise, diagnosis for every patient. It will enable them to ensure that they really target the right treatment to the right woman on the basis who is going to benefit, or if they are receiving benefit, not to exposing them to the side-effects associated with those treatments, added Dr Singh. The study was detailed in the journal Nature.
Study co-author Prof Carlos Caldas from Cambridge University, stated they drilled down into the fundamental detail of the biological causes of breast cancer and have moved from knowing what a breast tumour looks like under a microscope to pinpointing its molecular anatomy. The results will pave the way in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work.