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Scientists have found nine new genes that drive the development of breast cancer, revealed in a study published in the prestigious journal, Nature. This takes the tally of all genes associated with breast cancer development to 40.
In a major leap forward in our knowledge and understanding of breast cancer, the study examined all the 21,000 genes in 100 breast cancer cases. The work was funded by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
This is the most comprehensive study thus far of mutations in breast cancers, revealing the full diversity of the driving events that convert normal breast cells into breast cancers.
The faulty cancer-causing genes were different in different cancer samples, indicating that breast cancer is genetically very diverse. Understanding the consequences of this diversity will be important in progressing towards better treatments.
Professor Mike Stratton, lead author and Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said:
“The picture is certainly more complicated than we would have wanted, but as with many other things knowledge is our strongest weapon. Understanding our enemy at this level of detail will allow us to take more rational approaches to therapy, to understand why some cancers respond to drugs and others do not, and direct us to new vulnerabilities to be exploited in new treatments."
Professor Jorge Reis-Filho, from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research and a minor author on the paper, said:
“This important study provides a detailed catalogue of the faulty genes across different types of breast cancer.
"We know breast cancer is really complex, but now have a much greater understanding of what drives its development. This allows us to start thinking about the most effective ways of finding and combining drugs that target critical points in a patient’s breast cancer based on this information.
"Breast cancer scientists are making strides towards personalised medicine by matching the right treatment to the right patient and this research is a step towards that goal.”