Genetic marker discovery 'could advance cancer treatments'

23 March 2012

A genetic marker has been discovered which could help provide better treatments to those suffering from breast or ovarian cancers.

Scientists at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have come across the potential breakthrough, which could help determine which of the diseases respond to platinum-based chemotherapies.

Most cancer treatments already on the market function by damaging DNA within tumour cells, as these items will then be unable to grow and multiply around the body.

However, cancer cells vary in that some are able to repair broken DNA molecules while others are no longer able to go through repair procedures.

Andrea Richardson, co-senior author of the study and a surgical pathologist at the institute, noted: "We currently do not have any targeted therapies for patients with triple-negative breast cancer, so if these laboratory findings are confirmed and an assay is created to predict sensitivity to drugs that target defective DNA repair, it would be a major step forward."

A recent Cancer Research UK study also highlighted that cancer genes may differ depending on their location within a tumour.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Gerlinger M. et al. 'Intratumor heterogeneity and branched evolution revealed by multiregion sequencing'. New England Journal of Medicine. Wednesday March 7th 2012.

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