Monday, September 24, 2012

Breakthrough research but...

Its all over the news this morning that a new study was published in Nature Magazine yesterday. You can read it here in its full technical jargon. You can also read about it here in its 'translated for normal people' version. It does represent some great research where they have broken down breast cancer into four types:
  • Triple negative seems to be a basal type which makes it more related to ovarian cancer so this is saying should it be treated like ovarian cancer? An interesting thought for a very aggressive and difficult to treat disease.
  • The most common type of breast cancer ER+/PR+/Her2- is divided into two groups based on the luminal status (whatever they are). One group does well with chemotherapy, one does not, but both do well with hormonal therapy (Tamoxifen/Femara etc). So this means some women would no longer get chemo as in the past.
  • The last group is the Her2+ group which has recently been treated with Herceptin that has turned one of the worst cancers in to one of the easier to treat.
This is all wonderful and good but it was based on a study of the tumors in 825 women... which is a really small number. And as the article in the New York Times on this cautions:

"For now, despite the tantalizing possibilities, patients will have to wait for clinical trials to see whether drugs that block the genetic aberrations can stop the cancers. And it could be a vast undertaking to get all the drug testing done. Because there are so many different ways a breast cancer cell can go awry, there may have to be dozens of drug studies, each focusing on a different genetic change."

So as always, more studies (and patient patients) are needed.

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