New research gives deeper understanding of why some breast cancers are hard to treat

Scientists have unearthed crucial new genetic information about how breast cancer develops and the genetic changes which can be linked to survival. via Science Daily

B0006421 Breast cancer cells

image of breast cancer cells. image source: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images//CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The Cancer Research UK funded researchers, from the University of Cambridge, analysed tumour samples from the METABRIC study — which revealed breast cancer can be classified as 10 different diseases — to get a deeper understanding of the genetic faults of these 10 subtypes.

They found 40 mutated genes that cause breast cancer to progress. Only a fraction of these genes were previously known to be involved in breast cancer development. They also discovered that one of the more commonly mutated genes, called PIK3CA, is linked to lower chances of survival for three of the 10 breast cancer subgroups. Crucially, this might help explain why drugs targeting PIK3CA work for some women but not for others.

And the researchers think the results could in the future help find drugs to target these genetic faults, stopping the disease from progressing. The research could also provide vital information to help design breast cancer trials and improved tests for the disease.

Full reference: Pereira et al., The somatic mutation profile of 2,433 breast cancers refines their genomic and transcriptomic landscapes. Nature Communications, 2016.

Cancer Research UK press release: New research gives deeper understanding of why some breast cancers are hard to treat

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