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.
Click here to read the published research paper. Click here to read a Medscape article summarizing the findings and here to read an LA Times article about the research.
Breast cancer prognosis and breast cancer subtypes vary by race/ethnicity. Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, led by Dr. Ellen Chuang of the Weill Cornell Breast Center, explored whether the distribution of breast cancer subtypes varies among different Asian ethnic groups.
Analyzing the subtypes of 346 Asian patients treated at two New York City hospitals, the researchers found that Chinese and Japanese patients had a higher proportion of good-prognosis luminal A cancers, compared to Filipinos and Koreans. Filipinos had a higher proportion of HER-2/neu positive cancer compared to other ethnic groups. Koreans had a higher proportion of triple negative cancers compared to other ethnic groups.
Over 6000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed yearly in Asian women in the US. The results of this study have implications for the health of Asian Americans with breast cancer. They suggest that Filipinos are more likely to have a type of breast cancer that is more aggressive and require prolonged therapy, whereas Chinese and Japanese women have a more favorable subtype of breast cancer which, if found in its earliest stages, may be treated with hormonal therapy alone. It is not known why these differences exist, whether they have underlying genetic factors or are related to environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle.
Click here to read the published research paper.