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Scientists Create Breast Cancer Survival Predictor

WEDNESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Columbia University scientists have developed a new model to predict breast cancer survival, and they say their work could lead to improved diagnosis and prognosis for all types of cancers.

In earlier work, the researchers identified certain gene signatures that are present in nearly identical form in many cancer types. Using that information, they developed a model that showed that these gene signatures, when properly combined, were strong indicators for breast cancer survival.

The findings appear in the April 17 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"These signatures manifest themselves in specific genes that are turned on together in the tissues of some patients in many different cancer types," team leader Dimitris Anastassiou, a professor in electrical engineering and a member of the Columbia Initiative in Systems Biology, said in a university news release.

"And if these general cancer signatures are useful in breast cancer ... then why not in other types of cancer as well?" he said. "I think that the most significant -- and exciting -- implication of our work is the hope that these signatures can be used for improved diagnostic, prognostic and, eventually, therapeutic products, applicable to multiple cancers."

There are many biomarker products that look at specific genes in cancer biopsy samples in order to help doctors determine whether a particular treatment will be appropriate for a patient.

"Some of these genes are related to those in our signatures, so it's worth finding out if replacing such genes with our precise 'pan-cancer' signatures will improve the accuracy of these products," Anastassiou said.

The new model developed by the Columbia researchers won the Sage Bionetworks/DREAM Breast Cancer Prognosis Challenge.

More information

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

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Columbia University, news release, April 17, 2013

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