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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 01:18 GMT 02:18 UK
'Tailor-made' breast cancer treatments
Doctors may be able to produce a DNA fingerprint for cancer
Doctors may be able to produce a DNA fingerprint for cancer
A cell biology expert has predicted that genetic advances will produce treatments geared for every individual tumour.

Breast tumours are already checked to see what sort of drug treatment they will respond to best.

But Dr Kent Osborne, director of the Breast Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas said there were a host of individual characteristics which might allow "designer treatments" in future.

He told the European Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels there could potentially be hundreds or thousands of genetic differences between cancer cells in different patients.

He said: "Many centres are working in this field and are already identifying other important markers.

"We don't know yet how many genes will turn out to have important predictive value. With up to 100,000 genes in each cell, potentially it could be hundreds or thousands.

"Obviously the hope is it will be relatively few - 10 to 15 if we get lucky.

Tamoxifen test

"But what I am sure of it that within the next five years we will have added enormously to our pool of knowledge about the genetic behaviour of tumours."

The major difference between cancers already noticed by the scientists is whether or not the cell responds to the hormone oestrogen.

If this is the case, Tamoxifen can be prescribed to counter any negative effects of the hormone.

Researchers have also spotted that different cancers respond differently to another hormone, progesterone, and another gene, HER2, the presence of which predicts that certain treatments will have less effect.

The eventual aim, however, is to produce what Dr Osborne describes as a DNA "photofit" of the breast cancer cell.

A spokesman for the Cancer Research Campaign said: "It's certainly true that increasingly, we are learning about the make-up of each individual tumour."

She said trials were underway in Newcastle-upon-Tyne of an ovarian cancer treatment developed to target the p53 gene known to be involved in its development.

But she said many obstacles had to be overcome before a viable treatment could be matched to each genetic characteristic.

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19 May 00 | Medical notes
12 Apr 00 | Health
Breast cancer 'may be blocked'
27 Sep 00 | Health
Breast Cancer 2000
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