New Study Discovered Molecular Changes In The Primary Tumor Of Breast Cancer Patients

By Monica U Santos , Dec 09, 2016 04:59 AM EST

A new study found that when breast cancer spreads to the brain, important molecular changes may occur in cancer. The discovery of these changes could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment.Through the study, scientists also found out that drug-resistant, estrogen-fueled breast cancers that have spread beyond their initial site often have different genetic alterations than the original tumors.

New Study Discovered Molecular Changes In The Primary Tumor Of Breast Cancer Patients

The finding suggests that knowing the mutation landscape of the primary tumor is not enough to guide treatment after the initial treatment, said Ofir Cohen, PhD, of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. Mutated genes in the metastatic setting seem to be what drives resistance to the standard estrogen-based therapy that follows initial cancer treatment. "The take-home message here is that tumors do evolve and that the metastatic setting is different than the primary setting," Cohen said.

“In spite of tremendous advances in the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive, breast cancer using therapies directed against the estrogen receptor [ER], patients frequently develop resistance to these therapies,” said the senior investigator of the study Nikhil Wagle, MD, deputy director of the Center for Cancer Precision Medicine at Dana-Farber and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

“These resistant tumors remain the most common cause of breast cancer death, yet mechanisms by which this resistance develops are poorly understood,” she explained to an interview from Health Canal. But the study by Cohen's group is a step toward small trials with very specific aims in patient groups defined by their mutation pattern.

What Is A Tumor?

Johns Hopkins Medicine mentioned that the word cancer is derived from the Latin word for crab because cancers are often very irregularly shaped, and because, like a crab, they "grab on and don't let go." The term cancer specifically refers to a new growth which has the ability to invade surrounding tissues, metastasize (spread to other organs) and which may eventually lead to the patient's death if untreated.

While a tumor is a commonly used, but non-specific, term for a neoplasm. The word tumor simply refers to a mass. This is a general term that can refer to benign or malignant growths. A neoplasm is an abnormal new growth of cells. The cells in a neoplasm usually grow more rapidly than normal cells and will continue to grow if not treated. As they grow, neoplasms can impinge upon and damage adjacent structures. The term neoplasm can refer to benign or malignant growths.


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