Posted by: Viktor Mar | 2014 December 14

Researchers discover mutation that spreads breast cancer

Sean D. Hamill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A team of Pittsburgh researchers has discovered a genetic mutation that aided the spread of breast cancer in a patient, an exciting discovery that may provide guidance for how to treat women with the disease in the future, according to a study announced Wednesday at a breast cancer symposium in San Antonio.

The team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Magee-Womens Research Institute used tumor tissue samples collected over the last two decades that allowed researchers to track the spread of the disease in six patients.

All six patients had surgery to remove the initial tumor, and were determined to be disease free, only to have the cancer recur and ultimately kill them. Recurrence of breast cancer after surgery occurs in about 30 percent of patients.

While the main finding revealed Wednesday revolved around the one genetic mutation, research continues with the results of the tissue studies from the other five patients, which are also expected to provide insights into how breast cancer operates.

And though the study only involved six patients, that is five more patients than any prior study had ever been able to track by analyzing the genetic mutations of tumors over the course of the disease.

"This research represents the most comprehensive analysis to date of genomic changes that occur in breast cancer progression," the team announced in a press release.

The study’s findings are expected to spur other research facilities to use similar techniques to track mutations in patients.

"We always look at cancer as some evil thing looking to subvert our therapies, when really they’re random," Ryan Hartmaier, the lead author of the study and a research instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, said in an interview.

It is finding how common such a random mutation is that Hartmaier hopes to continue to explore in his own research, and he hopes that other research facilities will now pursue.

If this specific mutation is found to be more common, it could lead to the creation of drug therapies that address the mutation.

(c)2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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