A study done at Stanford University and the University of Cambridge reveals that molecular data obtained from breast cancer cells may be used to predict the recurrence of cancer in patients. This study was published in journal Nature on 13 March 2019.
Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases. People who have recovered or fought against cancer always live in fear of relapsing. There are 11 types of breast cancer and all of them have a different risk of returning.
Scientists have now developed a tool which can accurately predict the time when cancer may likely return in breast cancer survival patients. According to the study, the molecular data can be used to anticipate which patients are at high risk of relapsing even years after their diagnosis.
For this study, scientists studied a medical history of about 3000 women diagnosed with breast cancer. They studied to know when and where specific breast cancer types are likely to spread after their first successful treatment.
Scientists developed a computer model that identified tumor subgroups, which have a high risk of recurrence as well as that are less likely to recur. The model provides the chronology of a patient’s disease and is based on a genome-driven classification scheme.
During the course of the study, scientists identified one of the most aggressive cancers known as “triple negative” cancer. They are considered as one of the difficult forms of cancer to be treated.
The researchers also found that in about 25% of women with estrogen receptor positive cancer, there is a 42-55% chance of the tumor to return within 20 years. There is a high risk of relapse. The researchers were able to understand and learn where and when in the body certain breast cancers are likely to spread.
The current factors used by doctors and physicians to predict the recurrence of cancer among survival patients is the size and grade of the tumor at diagnosis, the degree of lymph node involvement and the age of the patient.
Scientists hope that with the help of the research tool, the doctors can test and guide treatment recommendations for treating breast cancer.
Oscar Rueda, one of the lead authors of the study said, “We’ve shown that the molecular nature of a woman’s breast cancer determines how their disease could progress, not just for the first five years, but also later, even if it comes back.”
The study discovered that scientists could predict the course of the disease at different points during a patient’s clinical follow-up. Scientists also found that the subgroups displayed different patterns of recurrence in terms of timings and sites of spread.
The scientists are further planning to do more advanced research in improving the outcomes of these patient subgroups who are at high risk of recurrence with the help of new therapies. They are also planning on doing clinical trials for this study.
This research is the first of its kind to study the rates and routes of breast cancer spreads.