Work by scientists in The Netherlands has contradicted the notion that breast cancer metastases behave differently to their primary tumours.
PhD student, Britta Weigelt told the meeting of the 4th European Breast Cancer Conference today (Thursday 18 March) that, contrary to what had been thought previously, any primary breast cancer cell was capable of producing secondary cancer cells, which then spread to other parts of the body. These secondary cancer cells had a strikingly similar genetic make-up to their parent cells and behaved in a similar way. Therefore, metastases were likely to have the same response to a particular treatment as their primary tumour.
The discovery has implications for the treatment of breast cancer once researchers have identified the ways that genetically different tumours respond to a variety of therapies. Based on the genetic profile of a patients tumour, doctors could choose the best treatment for that particular type of tumour (from specific types of chemo-, radio- or hormonal therapies) and treat the patient with it from the time of diagnosis. Such early (neo-adjuvant) treatment could not only shrink the primary tumour but might also prevent the outgrowth of micrometastases, thereby saving lives, as metastases that occur in other parts of the body are notoriously difficult to treat successfully and are the main cause of death in breast cancer.
Emma Mason | EurekAlert!
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