On Monday The New York Times published an article entitled “Study Divides Breast Cancer Into Four Distinct Types” relaying information about a new study that was published this past Sunday in the journal Nature.
Essentially, the research discovered four distinct types of breast cancer, each with their own “genetic changes that are driving many cancers,” the article states. This is exciting news because it means that drugs currently in use to treat cancer may likely be used on other parts of the body or in new ways to help deliver treatment to those genetic changes that don’t actually have treatments yet.
In the article, it goes on to say that “the study’s biggest surprise involved a particularly deadly breast cancer whose tumor cells resemble basal cells of the skin and sweat glands, which are in the deepest layer of the skin. These breast cells form a scaffolding for milk duct cells. This type of cancer is often called triple negative and accounts for a small percentage of breast cancer.” The article goes on to say the next logical step is to try ovarian cancer drugs on these types of breast cancers. But researchers found that this cancer was entirely different from the other types of breast cancer and much more resembles ovarian cancer and a type of lung cancer.
Interestingly on Tuesday this week, NPR also had a story about genetics and cancer involving whole genome sequencing, which can be used to help identify target treatments for the precise genetic mutations that cause tumors.
For now, the Times article says, “patients will have to wait for clinical trials to see whether drugs that block the genetic aberrations can stop the cancers.”
Rest assured that Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center doctors are all over this stuff and researchers have published their own results working with the genome as well over the years. Just run a search on the Hutchinson Center website for “genome.” At SCCA, we use drug therapies and immunotherapy, examples of targeted treatments derived from such work, to treat diseases like melanoma, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and lung cancer, to name just a few.
Our patient Eva Borsi is being treated with immunotherapy for lung cancer.
According to Dr. Tia Higano, an expert medical oncologist who specializes in treating prostate cancer, immunotherapy is one of the most exciting areas of research right now.