Researchers at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge spotted a set of gene in cancerous tumors that in a precise combination may herald the return of the disease.
The team noted that patients displaying this combination of genes were at a higher risk of having to battle again against it than their peers who did not have the genetic combination.
The team hopes that the new findings may help cancer research to develop new treatments that can tackle the disease before relapsing.
According to the background information of the study, in 20 percent of former breast cancer patients the condition relapses. Yet, the tumor does not necessarily attack the same tissues it did before. It can also appear in other parts of the body.
Dr Lucy Yates, senior author of the cancer study and cancer researcher at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, in the U.K., said that her team studied tumor data from more than 1,000 breast cancer patients before drawing their conclusions. Of those patients, 160 saw their cancer relapse or even spread.
Scientists observed that there were some significant genetic differences between tumors of the initial cancer and tumors of the secondary cancer. Cancers that were detected for the first time did not have a series of genetic mutations observed in secondary tumors.
Dr. Yates believes that such genetic mutations found in primary tumors could help researchers know whether that cancer would relapse or not later in life. She added that clinicians could use this data to assess the relapse risk of their breast cancer patients and chose the best medications to prevent that.
But, that means breast cancer patients should be screened on a regular basis and provide breast tissues to a laboratory every now and then. These samples can show whether the disease is likely to make a comeback or not.
Dr Yates acknowledged that the study needs to be backed up by a larger research with larger datasets. She also said that in the future clinicians could analyze their patients’ tumors and look for genetic clues that could point at a certain relapse. If they manage to do that they would be able to personalize therapy for every patient.
The findings were revealed this week the European Cancer Congress in Austria. Dr. Peter Naredi, a co-chairman of the meeting, deemed the results very significant for precision medicine doctors.
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