It’s Breast Cancer…Right?
A landmark study has revealed that what we currently think of as breast cancer should be thought of as 10 completely separate diseases.
The new categorisation of breast cancer could improve treatment options enormously by tailoring drugs for a patient’s exact type of breast cancer. In some cases, it could also help predict survival and life expectancy more accurately.
“Breast cancer is not one disease, but 10 different diseases,” said the lead researcher on the study, Professor Carlos Caldas. “Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work and those that won’t, in a much more precise way than is currently possible.”
In order to explain their research, the team took to analogy, comparing breast cancer to a map of the world. They said that current hospital tests were quite broad - dividing breast cancer up into the equivalent of “continents” - but their latest findings could allow you to give the map more detail and complexity, down to the level of “countries.”
Dr. Harpal Kumar, the director of Cancer Research UK - the organisation that funded the study - believes the study marks a new era in cancer research. “This will change the way we look at breast cancer, it will have an enormous impact in the years to come in diagnosing and treating breast cancer…[Cancer Research UK] thinks this is a landmark study.”
The full study, published in Nature, can be found here.
The BBC News - Health reported on the study here.
Image: A breast cancer cell undergoing cell division. Cancer cells will divide rapidly and randomly.