Gene breakthrough promises 'bespoke' breast cancer treatment

18 May 2016

Breast cancer screening

'Breast cancer treatment breakthrough after 'milestone' genetic discovery,' says The Independent, about widely reported research investigating genetic mutations in people with breast cancer.

The researchers took samples of cancer cells from 560 people with breast cancer (556 women and four men). They compared the DNA from the cancerous cells with DNA from normal cells.

They found 93 genes that had mutated in the cancer cells and concluded that they could have caused normal tissue to become cancerous. They also found 12 genetic patterns linked with breast cancer.

These findings have been called 'groundbreaking' in the media. While they are certainly interesting, it's important to remember that, even if the gene is present, it doesn't mean the person will get cancer, just that their risk is increased.

It's hoped that the study will lead to more personalised treatments for breast cancer, similar to drugs used for other DNA mutations that are already known.

If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, you may be worried about your own risk. It's best to visit your GP, who can assess you and refer you to a genetic clinic if necessary.

The study was carried out by researchers from a number of institutions, including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, East Anglian Medical Genetics Service, and the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Funding for the study was provided by multiple organisations, including the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme, the Wellcome Trust and the Institut National du Cancer (INCa) in France. The ICGC Asian Breast Cancer Project was funded through a grant from the Korean Health Technology R&D Project, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Republic of Korea.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature.

These findings have been reported accurately in the media. It's good to see explanations stating that, while this may be an important discovery, it may still be decades before targeted treatments become available. One of the researchers told the media: 'Overall, I'm optimistic, but it's a tempered optimism'.

Comments

No-one has left a comment yet - do you want to be the first?

Sign in

If you want to add a comment, you'll need to create an account or log in first.

Log in Create account

Older articles

vaping

Long-term vaping 'far safer than smoking' says 'landmark' study

"Vaping has been endorsed by health experts after the first long-term study of its effects in ex-smokers," ITV News reports. A six-month study found that e-cigarettes users had far lower levels of toxins and carcinogens in their body than smokers…

950 views
MND

'Breakthrough in communication for patients with severe MND', study claims

"Mind-reading machine allows people with 'locked-in' syndrome to communicate," reports the Mail Online. The report is based on a study that aimed to communicate with four patients unable to speak, move or blink...

1013 views
burnt toast

Warning over 'burnt toast chemical' acrylamide’s cancer risk

"Browned toast and potatoes are 'potential cancer risk', say food scientists," BBC News reports. The FSA has launched a campaign about the possible health risk of acrylamide; a chemical formed when starchy foods are subjected to a high temperature…

842 views