Researchers Classify Breast Cancer Tumors Into Ten Distinct Subtypes

A study published this week in the journal Nature suggests that breast tumors can be classified into ten distinct subtypes, ranging from very treatable to extremely aggressive. This finding is a major step toward the goal of more tailored breast cancer treatments.

In this study, led by researchers at the Cancer Research UK, scientists analyzed the genetic material of about 2,000 primary breast tumor samples taken from women diagnosed with breast cancer between five and 10 years ago. They initially analyzed 997 samples and validated their results in another 995. The researchers looked at 2 million spots on the genome, focusing on the number of times a string of DNA is repeated, small gene variations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, and also gene expression by looking at RNA. They then grouped the cancer cells into ten distinct categories by common genetic features that correlated with long-term survival outcomes of the women with breast cancer. According to a Los Angeles Times article, “Complementary research is expected shortly from the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genome Atlas and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England.”

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