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Genome Sequencing Reveals How Breast Cancer Spreads

Findings could lead to development of more targeted treatments, researcher says,,

WEDNESDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic analysis of a woman with breast cancer has yielded important information about an extremely dangerous type of breast cancer that largely affects blacks and younger women, say U.S. researchers.

By comparing three genomes -- the genome of a 44-year-old black woman who had "triple negative" breast cancer and the genomes of her breast tumor and a metastatic tumor that developed in her brain -- the scientists identified 20 genetic changes in a subset of breast tumor cells that probably played a role in the spread of the cancer that led to her death within a few months.

The findings suggest that sequencing entire genomes of cancer patients, along with the genomes of their primary and metastatic tumors, could improve understanding of how tumors spread and possibly lead to the development of new drugs that target important cancer-causing genetic errors, according to the researchers, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"We are getting an intimate look at the lethal spread of a breast cancer, which is now possible because we can sequence entire genomes quickly at reasonable cost," Elaine Mardis, co-director of the university's Genome Center and the study's senior author, said in a university news release.

"This work lays the foundation for understanding the genetic basis of tumor progression and metastasis and for identifying new drug targets that can improve the outlook for women with this disease," she added.

The study is published in the April 15 issue of Nature.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, news release, April 14, 2010

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