New research moves us one step closer to personalised breast cancer treatment

Specific histologic features of childhood medulloblastomas may provide insight into prognosis, according to an article in the new issue of Pediatric and Developmental Pathology. Medulloblastomas are common, malignant, embryonal childhood tumors in the cerebellum. Individual histologic features such as nodules, balls or high cell density are used to divide the tumors into variants thought

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Cancer Research UK scientists have found that a test, already used in breast cancer diagnosis, can also predict who will and who won’t benefit from commonly used chemotherapy drugs.

The research shows that women who have a duplication of chromosome 17 in their tumour will benefit from anthracycline drugs, while others can be spared the side-effects of the treatment. This group of chemotherapy drugs includes epirubicin which has already been shown to improve women’s survival by a third.

This research is important as both the chemotherapy drugs and the test are already available, so a change in clinical practice could happen in the very near future.

The results of the British study are being presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium today.

Professor John Bartlett, a Cancer Research UK funded scientist from the University of Edinburgh, said: “We were looking for markers to help decide when to give women this type of chemotherapy using a test that is already part of patients’ treatment.

“From previous trials we know that women who are treated with these drugs do better and are less likely to relapse. But, unless we know the drugs will be of benefit, we don’t want to give them to everyone because of the unpleasant side effects.”

The researchers took small sections of tumours from over 2,500 women who had taken part in one of a number of studies, including the UK NEAT (National Epriubicin Adjuvant Trial)*. They tested the tumours to identify which markers could predict whether the chemotherapy treatment would be successful.

The results of the trial provide evidence that the marker - a duplication of Chromosome 17 - could be used to predict which women will benefit from chemotherapy and could go on to be introduced as a routine test in treatment.

Professor Bartlett said: “This study gives us a key in the door to personalised chemotherapy treatment. Until now we haven’t been able to predict which women are likely to benefit from this type of chemotherapy.

“We are now close to being able to use this new marker in the clinic to select appropriate therapies in early breast cancer.”

Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, said: “These results are really encouraging and have the potential to change the way we treat women with breast cancer.

“Cancer Research UK are leaders in developing our knowledge about existing drugs. Before now we haven’t been able to predict who would benefit from epirubicin and this research means that women will only be given the treatment if it’s right for them.”


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The power of the drug tamoxifen to reduce breast density is key in preventing breast cancer - according to a presentation in America by Cancer Research UK scientists. Researchers monitored the extent to which tamoxifen could reduce breast density in 7000 healthy post menopausal women who are at high risk of breast cancer in a

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Women who have a strong family history of breast cancer are over four times more likely to develop the disease than the general population, according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer. This is the first time the risk for women who do not have a faulty BRCA gene but have one first-degree

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A new technique to study genetic changes that can lead to breast cancer could be one step closer. The University of Nottingham has received £15,000 from the charity Breast Cancer Campaign to fill in one of the research gaps identified by the country’s top breast cancer experts in a recent study carried out by the

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Early breast health education may be the key to lowering breast cancer mortality rates in Washington, D.C., which has the highest rates in the country, according to research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. Project Early Awareness, a breast cancer education program of

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