Breast Cancer Breakthrough: It’s Not All the Same

As much as we are all the same, we are all different. A new study suggests that those differences are important when it comes to the treatment of breast cancer.

Researchers at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K. looked at 560 tumor samples taken from people around the world, including four from male patients, using genomics; the study of how a specific group of genes will behave – in this case looking for mutations that lead to tumor growth. In addition to identifying five new cancer genes, they found that not only is breast cancer distinct from other cancers but each participant’s cancer was also distinct.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Serena Nik-Zainal, was reported as saying, “In the future, we’d like to be able to profile individual cancer genomes so that we can identify the treatment most likely to be successful for a woman or man diagnosed with breast cancer. It is a step closer to personalized healthcare for cancer.”

Using genomics to personalize breast cancer treatment is not new, however. As we reported in 2012, patients have been seeking out the testing before proceeding with interventions such as chemotherapy, which studies have shown does not benefit all patients equally.

Now we may know why.