A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center characterizes the genetic underpinnings of a rare type of breast tumor called phyllodes tumors, offering the first comprehensive analysis of the molecular alterations at work in these tumors. The analysis uses next-generation sequencing techniques that allow researchers to identify alterations in more than 100 genes from archived tissue samples. "We know little about the biology of phyllodes tumors. In part, they have not been studied much because it's difficult to accumulate a large number of samples. Using these new sequencing techniques, we were able to study archived tissue samples, which allowed us to identify enough samples to perform a meaningful analysis," says study author Scott A. Tomlins, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology and Urology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Phyllodes tumors represent about 1 percent of all types of breast tumors. Most are benign, but they do have the potential to become metastatic. Currently, there are no good ways to reliably predict which tumors are likely to recur or spread after initial treatment. Once phyllodes tumors become metastatic, there are few effective treatments. Researchers looked at 15 samples of phyllodes tumors, culled from archived tissue samples at the University of Michigan. The samples were equally divided according to their classification, with five considered benign, five borderline, and five malignant. While still a small sample, it can be sufficient with a rare tumor to identify genetic clues to the tumor's biology. The researchers sequenced the samples against a panel of genes known to have some function or role in cancer. They found two genes, EGFR and IGF1R, that were amplified in multiple malignant phyllodes tumors.
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