"Researchers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom found that women aged 15–39 who had early-onset breast cancer possessed specific gene variations that were associated with increased disease progression.
Lead study author Dr. William Tapper — from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton — and team say that their results not only shed light on why younger women with breast cancer have lower survival rates, but they could also offer new treatment targets for the disease."
This news seems to be leading to a real breakthrough. I have always found it interesting that young women were diagnosed with late stage breast cancer and required aggressive treatment. Yes you can argue that under 40 they are unlikely to receive regular mammograms so their disease was more likely to be caught at a later stage. But it seems to happen too frequently to be chance.
Now a gene variation has been found that could be the root of this.
"Among younger women diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer, it was found that two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the ADAMTSL1 gene were associated with greater risk of disease progression.
SNPs are variations in a DNA sequence that can affect how a gene functions, and this plays a role in disease.
The researchers say that this finding "suggests that unique disease mechanisms may influence survival in younger women and provide some biological insight into why younger-onset breast cancer has a worse prognosis."
What is more, Dr. Tapper and team say that the results could pave the way to new diagnostic and treatment strategies for young women diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer.
"Our findings increase our understanding of the genes and pathways that are involved in breast cancer prognosis, and may provide new targets for the development of novel therapies." - Dr. William Tapper
"In the short- to medium-term," continues Dr. Tapper, "this genetic factor may be used to improve prognostic models."
"In the long-term," he adds, "when more is known about the mechanism underlying this association and its relationship with treatment response, it may have an influence on approaches to the most effective breast cancer treatments."
So this is a real breakthrough. It could explain why some younger women have a more aggressive cancer, lead to better treatment for those with this variation, and lead to real changes in the future for all women with breast cancer.