Sunday, September 22, 2019

Breast cancer split into 11 separate diseases

'Molecular wiring' of tumors might forecast survival or relapse, new study shows

Can the so-called "internal wiring" of breast cancer predict whether you will survive or face a relapse?

The answer is a definite maybe.

As reported recently by the BBC News website, a new study published in the journal Nature indicates that the malady is actually 11 separate diseases with each having "a different risk of coming back [and] each with a different cause and needing different treatment." 

The article by health and science correspondent James Gallagher says that scientists at Stanford Universities and the University of Cambridge "looked in incredible detail at nearly 2,000 women's breast cancers" and analyzed the genetic mutations inside the tumors so they could "create a new way of classifying them."

Doctors, the piece notes, "currently classify breast cancers based on whether they respond to the hormone estrogen or targeting therapies like Herceptin."
Professor Carlos Caldas
Gallagher's story quotes Professor Carlos Caldas of the Department of Oncology at Cambridge Institute to the effect that the findings — which focus on the "molecular wiring" of the tumors — are "a very significant step to more precision-type medicine.

The study also "showed that triple negative breast cancers — one of the hardest to treat — were not all one class of cancer, but two."

The first group, according to the story, is "one where if women have not relapsed by five years they are probably cured" but a second subgroup is one in which women "are still at significant risk of later relapse."

Four subgroups, the article continued, "were both driven by estrogen and had a 'marked increased' risk of recurrence" — situations where patients "may benefit from a longer course of hormone therapy drugs like tamoxifen."

More information on research regarding the disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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