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Gene Activity May Explain Deadlier Breast Cancers Among Younger Women
Date:7/9/2008

Study finds more than 350 common sets of genes in patients under 45

WEDNESDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic activity in breast cancer cells from younger patients could explain why tumors tend to more aggressive when they strike at a younger age.

"We haven't had a good reason why younger women do worse than older women," said senior study author Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, director of the clinical trials program in breast cancer at Duke University. "This study offers some insight into why younger women do worse."

"This is a real testament that we're beginning to define, from a molecular basis, why certain patients do so poorly," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. "I think this will go a long way to helping define a population that, hopefully, would have more aggressive treatments."

The results are in the July 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Breast cancer tends to be more aggressive in younger women, responds less well to existing treatments such as radiation, surgery and chemotherapy, and has higher recurrence and lower survival rates.

"You think of breast cancer as sort of like a mosaic pattern with certain patterns that are very bad and certain patterns that are very good," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "You're talking about 600 different genes in the mosaic patterns, and you end up with certain cancers that are very aggressive and some cancers that are not so aggressive. We tend to see more aggressive cancers in younger women versus older women."

"We've known for 60 or 70 years that cancers tended to be more aggressive in younger women," Brawley said. "Now we're actually looking at the genetics."

For this study, Duke researchers analyzed samples of almost 800 early-stage breast tumors in two groups of women: those aged 45 and under and those a
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