Hopeful but Speculative Breast Cancer Gene Analysis

Nature this week published the report of on molecular portraits of breast cancer.  The study has received wide publicity as a major breakthrough, even in our local newspaper which features it as the lead story on page one.  (More a reflection of a low news weekend in a small town than the reality of the study)

As noted on the Genome Web site:  

  “This study has now provided a near complete framework for the genetic causes of breast cancer,” corresponding author Charles Perou, a genetics researcher with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a statement, “which will significantly impact clinical medicine in the coming years as these genetic markers are evaluated as possible markers of therapeutic responsiveness.”

And:

“The biological finding of the four main breast cancer subtypes caused by different subsets of genetic and epigenetic abnormalities raises the hypothesis that much of the clinically observable plasticity and heterogeneity occurs within, and not across, these major biological subtypes of breast cancer,” Perou and his co-authors noted.

Medicynical Note:  This could be a major breakthrough in understanding the behavior of this group of  cancers.  Grouping these tumors by genetic defect also provides some hints at potentially effective treatments.  

It should be pointed out that all the potential “benefits” are  unproven.  

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