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Researchers Find Two Biomarkers With Potential to Predict Breast Cancer Spread

Expression of two different proteins taken from primary tumor biopsies is highly associated with spread of breast cancer to nearby lymph nodes, according to researchers who// say this protein profile could help identify at an early stage those patients whose disease is likely to metastasize.

In the December 15 issue of Cancer Research, the researchers say over-expression of one unidentified protein and under-expression of another is 88 percent accurate in identifying breast cancer that has spread in a group of 65 patients, compared to an analysis of lymph nodes and outcomes.

If the predictive and diagnostic power of these proteins is validated, they could be analyzed in primary tumor biopsies that are routinely collected at the time of diagnosis, saving some women from extensive and possibly unnecessary treatment as well as from undergoing a second surgery to collect lymph nodes for analysis, the researchers say.

“We want to be able to predict, at the earliest stages, if a tumor has spread and how dangerous it will be,” said the study’s lead author, Dave S. B. Hoon, Ph.D., director of Molecular Oncology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Saint Johns Health Center, in Santa Monica, California. “These two proteins may allow us to target aggressive tumors with more extensive therapy management to some women, while sparing others from needless treatment.”

“Our approach is not to rely on hunting for lymph nodes during surgery, which will then only tell you whether the nodes are positive or negative, but to look at the primary tumor to predict how aggressive the cancer is at early stages,” Hoon said.

The lymph system collects the fluid that surrounds tissue cells, which is then processed by nearby draining lymph nodes, so checking these nodes for the presence of cancer is currently one of the most important prognostic factors predicting breast cancer survival, he said. “One of the best predictors of systemic ca
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