May 10, 2012
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women. For many it is an emotional catastrophe and others another obstacle to overcome together with many other social inequalities and difficulties already present in their lives. They would have to cope with the knowledge of this life threatening disease and the distasteful treatment associated with breast cancer. The anxiety and fear aroused by the word “cancer” spans ages, sexes, races and classes.
The idea that cancer is a single common enemy is increasingly being challenged. Studies have shown differences between different cancers and also highlighted differences between ‘same’ cancer types in different people. Breast cancer has long been suspected as a complicated disease. It has also been described as a heterogeneous group of disease. Constant research and study of breast cancer over decades resulted in the classification of the disease into 4 subgroups. This classification is based on the presence or absence of certain proteins: oestrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR) and Her2molecules which drive breast cancer growth. However, response to available treatment varies widely even among women in the same subgroup.
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In a new global gene study released on the 18thof April, 2011, researchers have discovered that breast cancer can be sub classified into 10 completely new categories based on the unique genetic printing of the tumour. A team at the Cambridge Research Institute, led an international consortium ( ol xonomy of east Cancer nternational onsortium, METABRIC), examined 2,000 tumours samples from women diagnosed with breast cancer in hospitals in the United Kingdom and Canada between five and 10 years ago. The findings were compared to the women’s survival and age at diagnosis.cular
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This new classification promises a revolution in breast cancer care. It increases the understanding of the disease, a very important step in finding a cure. Identifying these subtypes paves way for more precise and accurate diagnosis reducing under treatment or overtreatment by clinicians (Personalized therapy). This also means in future patients will know exactly which type of cancer they have. In addition, several completely new breast cancer genes were discovered, creating potential targets for the development of new drugs.
However, these results are a long way from being used and won’t change the way breast cancer is currently treated. Study co-lead, Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and Professor of Cancer Medicine at the Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge said:
“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”
The hope is that the results will have a huge impact on the way the world perceives breast cancer, providing a platform for scientist, researchers, drug makers in future research, clinical trials and drug development.
The research was carried out by Cancer Research UK scientists and its results are published in science journal Nature.