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An optimistic breast cancer discovery leads to more research

Published on | Kylie Chin

It is widely known throughout the breast cancer research community that breast cancer has been distilled to four different diseases with subtypes among them. While this has been recognized for a few years now, a recently published report from the online journal Nature has discovered new information about the genetic origins of the four major subtypes and how these types are similar. Some of the similarities between breast cancer and other types of cancer may be important clues and could potentially lead to more effective drug treatments down the road.

The report from Nature was part of the Cancer Genome Atlas network, funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study analyzed 825 breast cancer patients and  “…basically studied the genomes of breast cancers from each of these women in comparison to the genomes of the rest of their bodies,” says Matthew Meyerson, one of the paper’s 348 authors. The scientific community is excited by many of the similarities that were discovered that can potentially be targets for newly designed drugs.

One similarity that was particularly promising was a class that showed remarkable correlation to ovarian cancers, suggesting that it may be driven by similar biological developments. While this is still yet to be explored, it was clear that on a genetic level this type of breast cancer is more closely related to ovarian tumors than other types of breast cancer. This has led to a school of thought that believes one option is to try ovarian cancer drugs in breast cancer patients with these genetic markers.

However, it’s important to note that this discovery is far from translating into a clinical impact on breast cancer patients. Experts favorably believe that the first impact on patient health is at least five years in the future.

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