Breast Cancer Treatments Targeted Towards Specific Tumor Types

There is a medical investigative team called METABRIC. It stands for the Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium, and they have discovered some crucial information about breast cancer tumors.

Are There More Varieties of Breast Cancer?

Their discovery that there was many more varieties of breast cancer tumors than we previously thought, and the correct identification of each type can improve the chances of even more effective treatment. These ground-breaking conclusions have come after nearly five years of careful study in which nearly a thousand tumors from almost two thousand breast cancer patients in the UK and Canada were studied through the lens of genetics. All the subjects had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last decade.

The minutest of genetic detail was monitored over time, from the hundreds of cancerous material samples. They not only studied the cancer cell mutation but also the behavior of specific genes within cells. They also correlated the activity with age of the patients when first diagnosed and the mortality/recovery rates of all the patients. The researchers classified ten distinct types of tumor from their genetic characteristics. They then validated these types by comparing them with another group of nearly one thousand tumors.

Aggressive Breast Cancers

The tumor types vary from the relatively easily treated to the very aggressive, hard to treat ones. A great deal more research is needed before the breast cancer classification approach can be applied for the benefit of women in the throes of breast cancer. This new information, however, is an excellent addition to the medical world’s understanding of how breast cancer originates and spreads.

 New Classification Methods Ahead?

The current method of classifying breast tumors is comparatively unsophisticated with only a few subgroups and a limited selection of targeted treatment. So for example most breast cancers that are found to contain estrogen receptors, usually respond well to doses of ‘Tamoxifen’. While tumors that test positive for HER2 receptors are recommended to be treated with ‘Herceptin’. Still unexplained are those exceptional cases that do not respond well to the targeted treatment, even if they have the correctly classified tumor type.

It is an unfortunate cycle when unresponsive breast tumors are then over treated because doctors are ‘shooting in the dark’ in the desire to make a difference The benefits of the new, more detailed classification are twofold. Firstly, it avoids this overtreatment and secondly it facilitates individual treatment for individual patients and gives better prognosis.

Breast Cancer Prognosis

Thus, for instance, the research has identified cancers in two of the classifications that had few if any DNA mutations, again comparatively speaking. One of the two tumors was especially susceptible to being overcome by the patient’s immune-system cells and thus gave the better prognosis. Further study will aim to pin down the differences and make further improvement to differential treatment possible.

[box type=”note”]The results of this extensive study are big strides along the journey towards better future diagnosis of breast cancer type for each patient, and more informed choice of drug option than we have at the moment.[/box]

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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