News / Health

Researchers Find Four Distinct Types of Breast Cancer

Woman taking mammogram test
Woman taking mammogram test
Jessica Berman
A new genetic analysis of breast cancer has found four distinct types of the deadly disease, which experts say explains why drug therapy for one form of breast cancer may not work to cure another form.  The findings are the latest fruits of a massive cancer-gene mapping project offering hope of more effective treatments for breast cancer, with already-available drugs.

Perhaps the most intriguing discovery yet by the U.S. government-funded Cancer Genome Atlas is that some breast cancer tumors are similar, genetically, to cancer cells that invade other parts of the body, so existing therapies might be repurposed to successfully treat cancers of the breast.

Scientists studying the DNA in breast cancer tumors from more than 800 patients found that cells in one of the breast cancer types resemble the basal-type cells found in ovarian cancer tumors.  It’s possible, the researchers say, that the tumor might respond well to cisplatin-based drugs typically used for the gynecological cancer.  Newer ovarian cancer drugs might also be beneficial against the breast tumors.

Jeff Boyd is senior vice president for Molecular Medicine at Temple University's Foxchase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all treatment for breast cancer, says Boyd.

“What we are learning is that we’ve got to get beyond treat[ing] every breast cancer the same.  Do a lumpectomy, treat with these three drugs, irradiate locally and cross your fingers," he explained. "We now know, as we are beginning to learn for many cancer types, that there are multiple molecular cancer genetics that essentially render them separate diseases.”

Two other cancer types identified in the genomic study, called luminal A and B, are triggered into mutating by a gene called HER2.  A drug called Herceptin can block that gene, stem its growth and improve the prognosis for women with these types of cancer.  Herceptin has been approved for use to treat all breast cancers, yet not every tumor responds to the drug, and now researchers have a better understanding why.

Mathew Ellis is a cancer researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who has collaborated on the Cancer Genome Atlas.  Ellis hopes targeted therapies for the different types of breast cancer will soon become available to help his patients.

“Now we have to fast-forward to a day -- hopefully in the next year or two -- where at least in clinical studies the information is flowing forward to the patients and doctors.  And critically that data flow includes access to the drugs,” Ellis stated.

The project funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute began in 2006 with the goal of trying to identify the biomolecular underpinnings of more than 200 human cancers.  The research involving breast cancer initially identified the genetic signatures of tumors that led researchers to conclude there was probably more than one breast-cancer type.  The latest findings, published in the journal Nature, offer that proof.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs