A major study carried out by Cancer Research UK scientists and collaborators around the world could revolutionize the way women with breast cancer will be diagnosed and treated in the future, by reclassifying the disease into ten completely new categories based on the genetic fingerprint of a tumor. Doctors should one day be able to predict survival more accurately in women with breast cancer based on these new subtypes, and better tailor treatment to the individual patient. The research, published online on April 18, 2012 in Nature, is the largest global gene study of breast cancer tissue ever performed and represents the culmination of decades of research into the disease. The team at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, in collaboration with the British Columbia (BC) Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada, and multiple institutions around the world, analyzed the DNA and RNA of 2,000 tumor samples taken from women diagnosed with breast cancer between five and ten years ago. The scientists classified breast cancer into at least ten subtypes grouped by common genetic features that correlate with survival. This new classification could change the way drugs are tailored to treat women with breast cancer. The investigators also discovered several completely new breast cancer genes that drive the disease. These genes are all potential targets for the development of new types of drugs. This information will be available to scientists worldwide to boost drug discovery and development. The research also revealed the relationship between these genes and known cell signaling pathways, networks that control cell growth and division. This could pinpoint how these gene faults cause cancer, by disrupting important cell processes.
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