Breast cancer patients 'can be affected by multiple types at once'

10 August 2016

A new study has offered evidence that people can be affected by multiple forms of breast cancer at the same time.

The research from Baylor College of Medicine involved the examination of 22 human breast cancer tumours that were scheduled for surgery, and revealed for the first time that human oestrogen receptor-positive (OR-positive) breast cancer tumours treated with oestrogen-deprivation therapy can experience changes in the spectrum of mutations in the tumour population.

In one of the tumours, the researchers discovered OR-negative tumour cells hiding inside a mostly OR-positive tumour. Because four months of treatment had shrunk the OR-positive tumour, the second was then able to be detected and treated accordingly.

Without this approach, the OR-negative tumour would have never been diagnosed early and treated - indicating that in future, treatment for breast cancer may need to be tailored to account for the idea that not all tumour cells in a patient will behave the same.

Study first author Dr Christopher Miller, of the research faculty at the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St Louis, said: "Our results suggest that studying the genetic makeup of a tumour at diagnosis is not enough - periodically scanning the genome in several biopsy samples to understand how it is changing may help us evolve treatment strategies to match."

Posted by Jeanette Royston

 


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