Women's health * Healthy living

Scientists discover 10 new breast cancer subtypes

Scientists discover 10 breast cancer disease types Study could revolutionise diagnosis and treatment

Scientists have identified ten breast cancer subtypes and say the findings could revolutionise the way the disease is diagnosed and treated.

Instead of being seen as a single disease, UK and Canadian researchers say that breast cancer is ten distinct diseases, each with its own unique genetic fingerprint.

The ten breast cancer subtypes could be used to more accurately predict patient survival and tailor treatment to individual women with the disease.

The research by Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute and the BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, is the largest genetic study of breast cancer tissue to date.

In the study, the scientists analysed the genetic material of 2,000 tumour samples taken from women diagnosed with breast cancer between five and 10 years ago.

The study, published in the journal Nature, found ten distinct breast cancer subtypes with common genetic features linked to patient survival. Scientists also discovered several new breast cancer genes that drive the disease which could be potential targets for the development of new drugs.

Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group lead at the charity's Cambridge Research Institute, said: "Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work, and those that won’t, in a much more precise way than is currently possible.

"This research won't affect women diagnosed with breast cancer today. But in the future, breast cancer patients will receive treatment targeted to the genetic fingerprint of their tumour.

"Essentially we've moved from knowing what a breast tumour looks like under a microscope to pinpointing its molecular anatomy – and eventually we’ll know which drugs it will respond to.

"The next stage is to discover how tumours in each subgroup behave – for example, do they grow or spread quickly? And we need to carry out more research in the laboratory and in patients to confirm the most effective treatment plan for each of the 10 types of breast cancer."

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: "Being able to tailor treatments to the needs of individual patients is considered the holy grail for clinicians and this extensive study brings us another step further to that goal."

This article was published on Thu 19 April 2012

Image © Arto - Fotolia.com

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