Breast cancer stems from ten genetic subtypes, not four as previously thought, according to research published online yesterday in the journal Nature. The study, by Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, looked at breast cancers in 2,000 women in the United Kingdom and Canada and determined that the cancers, while under one unifying kind of disease, have distinct subtypes.
The ten distinct categories range from very treatable to extremely aggressive. These important findings are a major step on the way to the long-sought goal of precisely targeting therapies for patients. In the future, patients could receive treatment targeted to the genetic makeup of their tumor; this could spare many women the risks and pain of unnecessarily toxic treatments.
Scientists caution, however that although these findings are very important, they will need to be evaluated in clinical studies before they can be incorporated into clinical practice.