Latest Breast Cancer Discovery: Four New Classifications

On Sunday, it was reported by a group of scientists who just completed an analysis of breast cancer genetics, that they could classify breast cancer into four major new classes.  Scientists hope that this will lead to even more effective treatments.  Some of the findings also hinted that one of the classifications may be more susceptible to a drug that they use to fight ovarian cancer.
The study was published by the journal Nature and focuses on the biological details of tumors, whereas, in the past they focus on where the cancer arises.  The scientists are hoping that this study helps reveal the weaknesses in the genetics of breast cancers which helps with drug targeting.

Since this study, Dr. Matthew Ellis, of the Washington University School of Medicine and co-leader of the research, has become more hopeful of the future for a cure of breast cancer.  He said, “This is the road map for how we might cure breast cancer in the future.”

“With this study, we’re one giant step closer to understanding the genetic origins of the four major subtypes of breast cancer,” commented Ellis who went on to say, “Now we can investigate which drugs work best for patients based on genetic profiles of their tumors.”

The study consisted of the scientists analyzing breast cancer tumors of 825 patients, looking mostly for abnormalities, finding that they could be filtered into four main classes.  This is the largest study that has been done on the genomes, identifying 40 genetic alterations that might be able to be attacked by drugs.

One of the classes demonstrated similarities in ovarian cancers, which the scientists believe are driven by similar if not the same biological developments.  The similarities between these two increases the likelihood there could be a common cause between breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

“It is clear they are genetically more similar to ovarian tumors than to other breast cancers, whether they can be treated the same way is an intriguing possibility that needs to be explored,” said Ellis about the similarities between the cancers.

Although it will still be years and many more studies before they can translate their findings into new treatments, this is exciting.  Even by narrowing breast cancer down to four types, a number of new drugs will need to be developed and tailored to the different classes and individual tumors before we are able to see this break through make a difference in medicine.


Hopefully, this study is a new hope to finding a cure to breast cancer; we’re at least 4 steps closer!

To find more information on this study and read the article, check out NY Daily News or the NY Times.

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