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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 18:59 GMT
Tailored treatments for breast cancer
Scientists could be able to predict how breast cancer will develop
Scientists could be able to predict how breast cancer will develop
Genetic screening may one day enable scientists to tailor treatment to individual women.

Researchers have successfully tested the method for predicting how breast cancers will develop.

It brings the use of treatments based on a woman's genetic profile - which could give the optimum treatment with the least side effects - even closer.

The genes identified in the study could provide a tool for selecting the right treatment options for individual sufferers, while minimising side effects.


If molecular forecasting of the outcome of cancer is indeed possible, as this work suggests, it is a significant advance on existing prognostic methods

Carlos Caldas and Samuel Aparicio, Cambridge University
The study was carried out by US and Dutch researchers, and is published in the journal Nature.

They screened breast cancer tumours removed from women and found different cancer outcomes.

Tumours from women with the BRCA1 gene, which is most often associated with inherited breast cancer, were found to have a unique molecular signature.

Researchers also identified a specific pattern of gene activity associated with cancers which spread quickly to other parts of the body.

'Gene chips'

Breast cancer can come in a number of forms.

It can be inherited or be sensitive to levels of the female hormone oestrogen.

Other kinds of breast cancer spread particularly quickly.

At the moment, it can be hard to decide which type of cancer women have.

Stephen Friend, from Rosetta Inpharmatics in Kirkland, Washington, who led the research used "gene chips" to analyse about 25,000 genes in 78 primary breast cancers.

Gene chips or microarrays measure the activity of genes by matching together complimentary bits of genetic material.

If a piece matches a piece of DNA on the chip, it shows itself to be active.

In breast cancer patients, RNA a molecule which provides a "template" for DNA, from the tumours tagged with fluorescent labels was applied to the chips.

RNA carries instructions from the genes to a cell's protein-making machinery.

They used this method to identify 70 marker genes which predicted the presence or absence of spreading breast cancer.

Carlos Caldas and Samuel Aparicio, from Cambridge University, wrote in an accompanying article in Nature: "If molecular forecasting of the outcome of cancer is indeed possible, as this work suggests, it is a significant advance on existing prognostic methods."

See also:

24 Oct 01 | Health
Gene profile could predict cancer
29 Sep 01 | Health
Breast cancer gene queries surge
06 Feb 01 | Health
Breast screen success 'will rise'
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