Because this initial study was done on tissue samples from 70 women, a larger retrospective study is under way at UCSF to validate the initial results, Tlsty said.
Further research, including a large prospective trial, is also needed before the findings can be ready for clinical use, she added. If that work upholds the results of the pilot study, the biomarkers could be ready for clinical use within four to five years, Tlsty said.
Dr. Joseph Geradts, a professor of pathology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said that finding biomarkers that turn DCIS into invasive cancer is "the holy grail of breast cancer research." He said there have been a number of previous studies that have been published, but, so far, they've been "mostly a fruitless effort."
According to Geradts, the UCSF study "is valuable," because "the authors propose two new biomarkers that in the past have not been looked at." The UCSF team's findings "are intriguing preliminary data" that "merit confirmation and subsequent studies," he added.
Geradts said his own lab currently is researching whether changes in DNA may identify a tumor's capacity to metastasize or become invasive. Other researchers are looking at other DCIS biomarkers, he said.
"DCIS itself is a non-life threatening condition" with rare exceptions, noted Dr. Eric Winer, director of breast oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and women are usually treated to help prevent invasive cancer. If the findings of the initial UCSF study are confirmed, then with "careful investigation, we may get to the point where we don't have to treat all women with DCIS, and we may be able to tailor it so some women get less, and some women get more" depending upon their risk for invasive breast cancer, Winer said.
"It's a very complex and interesting study" added Dr. Richard Bleicher,
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