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Cellular origin of a rare form of breast cancer identified
Date:9/22/2011

BOSTON (September 22, 2011) -- Identifying the cellular origins of breast cancer might lead to earlier diagnosis and more efficient management of the disease. New research led by Charlotte Kuperwasser of Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) has determined that common forms of breast cancer originate from breast cells known as luminal epithelial cells while rarer forms of breast cancer, such as metaplastic carcinomas, originate from basal epithelial cell types. The study was published online ahead of print this week in PNAS Early Edition as part of its breast cancer special feature.

Clinicians and researchers classify breast cancers into subtypes based on both clinical features and molecular features, including expression of certain genes and proteins. These classifications help determine diagnosis, treatment decisions, and patient prognosis. The most common form of breast cancer, called invasive ductal carcinoma, is classified broadly into two types based on molecular features of the tumor cells: luminal-like cancers, which are sensitive to hormones, and the more aggressive basal-like cancers, which are not sensitive to hormones and tend to have a poorer prognosis.

However, there are also rare forms of breast cancer, some of which are called metaplastic carcinomas, where the cancer cells no longer resemble cells of the breast. Scientists do not yet fully understand how and why these different types of breast cancers form but one theory is that they originate from adult breast tissue stem cells.

"For the past several decades, most research efforts have been focused on discovering cancer-causing genes in hope that this information might help us discover better treatments for breast cancer. While these efforts have led to successes in treating some common forms of breast cancer, they have not provided us with information regarding where breast cancer originates and in particular, the origins of rare forms of metaplastic b
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Contact: Siobhan E. Gallagher
617-636-6586
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus
Source:Eurekalert

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