Similarities Seen Between Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
and Serous Ovarian Cancer
Date of presentation: September 23, 2012
Basal-like breast cancers (most of which are triple-negative) share several characteristics with serous ovarian cancer, raising the possibility that these two types of cancer may respond to similar treatments. These results were published in Nature.
It's long been known that breast cancer is not a single disease; breast cancers differ greatly in their characteristics, prognosis, and response to treatment.
Although researchers continue to explore how best to describe and classify breast cancers, patterns of gene expression within breast tumors have suggested four broad categories of breast cancer: luminal A, luminal B, HER2-enriched, and basal-like.
Most triple-negative breast cancers fall into the basal-like category. Research that more completely characterizes this type of breast cancer may provide clues to effective treatments. If certain genetic changes are found to drive the growth of these cancers, it may be possible to identify drugs that target these changes.
A comprehensive analysis of the molecular characteristics of several hundred breast tumors was recently conducted by researchers with the Cancer Genome Atlas Network. Some of the most interesting results from the analysis involved basal-like breast tumors.
Basal-like breast tumors were found to share many characteristics with a type of ovarian cancer known as serous ovarian cancer. There were also similarities between basal-like breast tumors and a certain type of lung cancer.
The similar characteristics suggest that these cancer types may respond to similar treatments. Drugs that are effective against serous ovarian cancer, for example, may also be effective against basal-like breast tumors.
These findings will not immediately change breast cancer treatment, but will be tremendously useful to researchers as they develop and test new approaches to treatment.
Research into the molecular underpinnings of cancer may also help us understand why cancers that are often grouped together (such as triple-negative breast cancers) can behave in different ways. If different types of triple-negative breast cancer are identified, it may become possible to provide more individualized and more effective treatment of these cancers.
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