Cambridge study could revolutionise cancer treatment

Anna Hollingsworth - News Reporter 29 April 2012

A recent breast cancer study may mark a milestone in decades of research, revolutionising the way the disease is viewed and treated.

The study, conducted by Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Canada, is the largest global gene study on breast cancer tissue ever to be undertaken.

Researchers analysed DNA and RNA from 2000 tumour samples using heat maps that allow the activities of individual genes to be compared, giving an insight into a tumour’s molecular anatomy.

Correlating tumours’ genetic fingerprints with chances of survival, researchers have been able to reclassify the disease into ten completely new categories, raising hopes of more accurate predictions of survival and the possibility of future tailor-made treatment.

The research has shed more light on how gene faults can cause cancer by interfering with essential cell processes, as well as unveiled several completely new breast cancer genes that may serve as targets for the development of new drugs.

While these results will not affect those currently suffering they will, according to study co-leader Professor Carlos Caldas, allow future treatment to be targeted to the genetic fingerprint of the tumour.

More precise diagnoses will also spare those who would not benefit from certain treatments from suffering unnecessary side effects.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive at Cancer Research UK, said that the progress in breast cancer research during the last few decades is ‘thanks to the enormous generosity’ of those supporting the charity.

She summarised the significance of the study, adding: ‘We have much further to go but this study will enable us to kick off a new era in the way we think about breast cancer treatment’.

Anna Hollingsworth – News Reporter