Breast cancer 'can be separated into four distinct groups'

25 September 2012

The most comprehensive analysis of breast cancer has led to the suggestion that the life-threatening disease can be separated into four genetically distinct groups.

Scientists based at Washington University School of Medicine have detailed this finding after undertaking a task to genetically map 800 breast tumours.

During the study, the researchers opted to focus on the biological characteristics of tumours, instead of just looking at where the cancer arose in the body.

Following their mapping, the scientists unveiled that 'basal-like' breast cancer – one of the most deadly subtypes – appears more like ovarian tumours than other forms of the severe disease.

The researchers are hopeful that their findings can lead to more effective treatment options to be developed, while also using some drugs which are already in use for tending to other cancers.

Dr Matthew Ellis, a co-leader of the research, commented: "With this study, we're one giant step closer to understanding the genetic origins of the four major subtypes of breast cancer."

Breast cancer is still a major health problem across the UK, with Cancer Research UK underlining 48,417 women and 371 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2009 alone.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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