Breast cancer mutation map could aid personalised treatment

3 May 2016

Scientists have published the most detailed picture yet of the genetic events that cause breast cancer, which could lead to more personalised healthcare for cancer.

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute sequenced the whole genome, including non-coding regions, of tumours and normal tissue from 560 breast cancer patients to produce the most comprehensive analysis to date of acquired (somatic) mutations.

Published in the journals Nature and Nature Communications, the scientists concluded that the genome of each breast cancer was highly individual. The team identified mutations in 93 genes which could cause the development of tumours, including five that were previously unknown.

Prof Mike Stratton, the director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, said: “unpicking the genetic variations between cancers is crucial to developing improved therapies.

But Prof Stratton expects new drugs will still take at least a decade to reach patients and warns: “Cancers are devious beasts and they work out ways of developing resistance to new therapeutics…

Serena Nik-Zainal of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute commented: “In the future, we’d like to be able to profile individual cancer genomes so that we can identify the treatment most likely to be successful for a woman or man diagnosed with breast cancer. It is a step closer to personalised healthcare for cancer.

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