DNA research a new approach to breast cancer

The latest breast cancer research could lead to more personalised care and help further understanding of its causes, scientists say.

A study involving people from around the world has been hailed as giving a fuller picture of changes in DNA in breast cancer, providing potential opportunities for new treatments.

A study of 560 breast cancer genomes, or complete genetic codes, turned up five new genes associated with the disease. The results, published in Nature and Nature Communications, provide evidence that breast cancer genomes are “highly individual”, said researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Genomes in patients, four of whom were men, were looked at by the team who focused on mutations that encourage the disease to grow and the patterns, known as mutational signatures, in each tumour. They found women with genes that leave them at a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer have entire genome profiles different to each other and distinctive from other breast cancers.

Dr Serena Nik-Zainal, who led the team, said: “In the future, we’d like to be able to profile individual cancer genomes so that we can identify the treatment most likely to be successful for a woman or man diagnosed with breast cancer. It is a step closer to personalised healthcare for cancer.”

Dr Ewan Birney, of the European Bioinformatics Institute, analysed the sequence of genetic information in the genomes: “This study both gave us the first large-scale view of the rest of the genome, uncovering some new reasons why breast cancer arises; and gave us an unexpected way to characterise the types of mutations that happen in certain breast cancers.”


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