Known biomarker for breast cancer also predicts risk

8 April 2016

Women with a higher percentage of the molecular marker Ki67 are five times more likely to develop breast cancer, says a new study.

Ki67 identifies proliferating cells in the cells that line the mammary ducts and milk-producing lobules. These cells, called the mammary epithelium, undergo drastic changes throughout a woman's life, and the majority of breast cancers originate in these tissues. 

The discovery could be used to more accurately predict which women are at higher risk of breast cancer and develop more targeted screening strategies. As we argue in our report on screening for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer, stratification holds the prospect of achieving higher rates of diagnosis and effective early treatment, as well as reducing overtreatment and its associated risks. 

Researchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) investigated the biopsies of 302 women taken from a previous study. They now intend to reproduce the results in an independent cohort. 

"Instead of only telling women that they don't have cancer, we could test the biopsies and tell women if they were at high risk or low risk for developing breast cancer in the future," said Kornelia Polyak, co-senior author of the paper. 

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