Navigation Links
Genetic Profiling Adds New Dimension to Breast Cancer Treatment

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment for breast cancer has advanced in recent years by becoming more and more personalized.

Not personalized to the patient, mind you, but to the particular tumors and cancer cells inside that patient.

New tests are allowing doctors to figure out what genetic or biological factors are driving each individual woman's type of cancer, and new therapies are being targeted to directly attack those specific factors.

"When it comes to treating breast cancer, we used to throw the book at everyone," said Dr. Christy A. Russell, a board member of the American Cancer Society's California division and an associate professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. "Now it's much more targeted."

That's a message worth sharing during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The same five treatment options are still available to women with breast cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy. But researchers are honing and improving each option, either to better target the cancer cells or to provide women with a wider range of treatment choices.

"Within each of those types of treatment modalities, we are refining how the treatment is delivered or how we choose which treatment is appropriate for each patient," said Susan Brown, a registered nurse and director of health education for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit group focused on fighting breast cancer.

For example, there have been few advances in creating new chemotherapy drugs to battle breast cancer, Russell said. "What has changed is trying to figure out who will benefit from chemotherapy," she said. "We are taking the cancers and having them evaluated genetically, to give us some genetic signatures to tell us if those cancers would shrink if they got chemotherapy."

This "genomic profiling" of a woman's specific cancer has "reduced the number of women with early breast cancer who are having to be treated with chemotherapy," Russell said.

One new test in particular, Oncotype DX, is being used to help women who would most likely benefit from hormone therapy because their cancer is spurred by estrogen or other female hormones.

Oncotype DX analyzes the genetic makeup of breast cancer cells to determine the likelihood that a woman's particular cancer will recur after hormone therapy treatment. If the likelihood is high, doctors will recommend that the woman undergo both hormone therapy and chemotherapy, Brown said.

"This information can help doctors decide whether to add chemotherapy to a treatment regimen that already includes hormone therapy," she said.

Doctors also have learned to analyze cancers for specific factors that, if blocked, can make chemotherapy more effective in killing the cancer cells.

About one-fourth of all breast cancer patients have cancer cells containing mutated forms of HER2neu, a gene that promotes the creation of a growth factor protein.

"In some breast cancers, instead of the cancer cells having two copies of the gene, the cells have 10 or 20 or more copies of the gene," Russell said. "The gene is producing a protein that causes the cell to grow much more rapidly and uncontrollably."

Treatment with a drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin) can block the growth signals transmitted by the gene, slowing the progress of the cancer and making it more susceptible to chemotherapy, Russell said.

"Most of the research going on now is trying to figure out how to combine these new targeted agents with chemotherapy so we can focus in on the specific gene abnormalities that are going on in the cells," she said.

This type of research also is combating the ability of cancer to grow resistant to chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Researchers have learned that a growth factor protein known as mTOR promotes the spread of cancer cells and can bolster their resistance to hormone therapy, Russell said.

"Medications that act as mTOR inhibitors appear to be able to make some cancer cells that have become resistant to hormone therapy become sensitive to the therapy again," Russell said. "There are many pathways we are aware of that cancer cells are able [to use] to overcome their ability to be killed by chemotherapy. All of these different gene pathways are becoming known, and, as they are becoming known, they are developing drugs that are targeting those pathways. That's where the majority of the clinical trials are occurring."

Which means it is essential for women with breast cancer to participate in clinical trials, Brown said.

"Currently, fewer than 5 percent of patients enroll in clinical trials," she said. "The only way we're going to know more is if we are able to translate what we think we've learned in a lab into a clinical situation," Brown explained.

"Everything we know about breast cancer now is because of the very courageous women who came before us and enrolled in clinical trials," Brown added.

More information

The American Cancer Society has a detailed guide to breast cancer.

A companion article describes one woman's account of how breast cancer changed her life.

SOURCES: Christy A. Russell, M.D., associate professor, medicine, Keck School of Medicine, and co-director, Breast Cancer Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Susan Brown, RN, MS, director, health education, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Penn team links schizophrenia genetics to disruption in how brain processes sound
2. Researchers discover hidden genetic influence on cancer
3. Mayo Clinic wins grant to study ethics of sharing genetic test results with relatives
4. CAMH study confirms genetic link to suicidal behavior
5. Study gauges emotional toll of direct-to-consumer genetic testing
6. Women with breast cancer with no genetic link, are not fully utilizing breast cancer services
7. Genetic Links Seen Between Bipolar Illness and Schizophrenia
8. Decoding vaccination: Mayo researchers reveal genetic underpinnings of response to measles vaccine
9. Large study finds genetic overlap between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder
10. Genetic differences may cause higher rates of prostate cancer in African-American men
11. Genetic factors behind high blood pressure
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Genetic Profiling Adds New Dimension to Breast Cancer Treatment
(Date:6/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... Austin residents ... the American College of Mohs Surgery and to Dr. Russell Peckham for medical and ... highly effective treatment for skin cancer. The selective fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... CA (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... As ... with Magna Cum Laude and his M.D from the David Geffen School of Medicine ... and returned to Los Angeles to complete his fellowship in hematology/oncology at the UCLA-Olive ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... surgery procedures that most people are unfamiliar with. The article goes on to state ... procedures, but also many of these less common operations such as calf and cheek ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension Association ... it will receive two significant new grants to support its work to advance ... 25th anniversary by recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work in ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Topical BioMedics, Inc, makers of Topricin and MyPainAway Pain Relief ... a minimum wage raise to $12 an hour by 2020 and then adjusting it yearly ... lost value of the minimum wage, assure the wage floor does not erode again, and ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Research and ... Devices Medical Market Analysis 2016 - Forecast to 2022" ... The report contains up to date financial data derived ... Assessment of major trends with potential impact on the market ... of market segmentation which comprises of sub markets, regional and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 , , ... July 7, 2016 , , , , LOCATION: , , ... , , , EXPERT PANELISTS:  , , , Frost & ... Analyst, Christi Bird; Senior Industry Analyst, Divyaa Ravishankar and Unmesh Lal, ... The global pharmaceutical industry is witnessing an exceptional era. Several new ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... PRINCETON, N.J. , June 23, 2016  Guerbet ... of Premier Inc.,s Supplier Horizon Award . ... this year, Guerbet was recognized for its support of ... value creation through clinical excellence, and commitment to lower ... delighted to receive this recognition of our outstanding customer ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: