Study Finds Genetic Differences Between Relapsing and Non-Relapsing Breast Cancers; Results May Drive Further Personalized Medicine Efforts; Importance of Genetic Analysis of New Metastases When Making Treatment Decisions Is Emphasized

Although most patients with breast cancer are cured after treatment, in about one in five, the cancer will recur, returning either to the same place as the original tumor or spreading to other parts of the body (metastasis). Now, researchers have taken an important step towards understanding why some primary breast cancers return while others do not. The researchers have found that the genetic factors driving the cancers that recur are different from those found in the cancers that do not. This discovery could enable doctors to identify patients at high risk of their cancer returning and to target the genes responsible for recurrence when the cancer is first diagnosed in order to prevent its return. Presenting the results to the 2015 European Cancer Congress on Saturday, September 26, 2015, in Vienna, Austria, Lucy Yates, M.D., a clinical research oncologist from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK, will say that her team analyzed data from the genetic sequencing of 1,000 breast cancer patients' tumours. In 161 cases this included samples taken from recurring tumors or metastases. They compared the cancer genes found in cancers sampled at first diagnosis (primary tumors) with those found in relapsed cancers. The European Cancer Congress 2015 is the 18th congress of the European CanCer Organization (ECCO) and the 40th congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO). The title of Dr. Yates’ presentation is “The Driver Landscape of Breast Cancer Metastasis and Relapse." (Abstract Number 1804). The researchers found that there were genetic differences between primary and recurring tumors, with some differences being acquired during the later phases when the cancers recurred and started to spread. The scientists say these findings have important implications for personalized medicine.
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