(Embargoed) Chapel Hill -- Breast cancer researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified a number of activity patterns in the genes of individual tumors that make them biologically different from others. These findings could provide valuable clinical information such as how likely the tumors are to be invasive, how well they might respond to different treatments and how likely they are to recur or spread.
Currently, doctors treating patients with breast cancer make treatment decisions and predictions based largely on the location and size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread, or metastasized, to lymph nodes and distant sites of the body.
But not all patients who are similar in terms of these clinical indicators get the same benefits from treatment.
These new findings could remedy that situation. Such differences in gene activity may be used as biomarkers to identify which treatments can be individually matched.
Over the past five years, gene expression profiles have been identified that appear to be predictive for cancer patients, especially for breast cancer patients. But these tests show very little overlap in their gene lists, and thus it is not known just how distinct these different assays might be.
According to Dr. Charles M. Perou, assistant professor of genetics and pathology at the UNC School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, some of the predictive assays are available commercially and others are under study in clinical trials in which treatment decisions, including whether or not to use chemotherapy, are being made based on them.
"An important and unanswered question, however, is whether these assays actually disagree or agree concerning outcome predictions for the individual patient," Perou said. "I think this is a very important point because if they disagree then it becomes difficult to determine which to use and when, and whic
Contact: L. H. Lang
University of North Carolina School of Medicine