It's not just one scary disease — it's 10. New research has identified 10 genetic breast cancer subtypes, each with unique characteristics that respond differently to treatment and medication.
Breast cancer affects roughly 1.4 million women each year around the world and is considered the most common cancer in women. Previously, breast cancer was divided into four main subgroups, but according to a study published last week in the journal Nature, researchers in the United Kingdom and Canada are now able to identify 10 individual subtypes of the disease. This will eventually help doctors match drugs and treatment to patients more efficiently and do a better job of predicting survival times in women with the disease.
The study by Cancer Research U.K.’s Cambridge Research Institute and the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada analyzed 2,000 frozen tumor samples from breast cancer patients from five different hospitals. Researchers looked at genetic material in the cancer cells and grouped them into 10 subtypes with common genetic features that correlated with the patient's long-term survival times.
Researchers hope that the new categories will help doctors develop more targeted approaches to breast cancer treatment and spare many women the risks and pain of unnecessarily toxic treatments.
“Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work and those that won’t, in a much more precise way than is currently possible,” lead researcher, Dr. Carlos Caldas said in a news conference in London, according to the BBC.