Breast cancer is not a single disease

We all know that no two cancers are exactly the same, but now new research has shown that breast cancer is not a single disease but a collection of at least five separate conditions that differ in prognosis and response to treatment.

A comparison of the genomes of 24 breast tumours found several distinct patterns of DNA damage, each of which appeared to be characteristic of a sub-type of cancer.  Scientists expect to be able to classify tumours according to their DNA signatures and thus establish how aggressive the tumour will be, and which therapy is most likely to work.

Mike Stratton, of the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “Our work supports the view that breast cancer is not one but several diseases. If this diversity is associated with a different prognosis, or sensitivity to drugs, it will become very useful on a clinical level.”

(© The Times, London)