The Fertility Show, Manchester Central, 24-25 March 2018
Page URL:

Genetics of breast cancer progression mapped

21 May 2012
Appeared in BioNews 657

The genetic landscape of breast cancer is much more complicated than previously hoped, according to the authors of two analyses of multiple tumour genomes.

The first study, published in Nature, mapped all the protein-coding genes in the genomes of 100 tumours to inform what the team describe as a 'sobering perspective' on the diversity of the disease.

Researchers found 73 different mutation combinations in the samples, including alterations in nine genes not previously known to drive breast cancer development.

'In 28 cases we found only a single driver, but the maximum number of driver mutations in an individual cancer was six', said study leader Professor Mike Stratton, director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire.

'If we consider three breast cancers, each with four driver mutations: they might share none of those driver mutations - so each is a different genetic 'animal'', Professor Stratton continues. 'They are different cancers driven by different genes. We need to classify them as carefully as we can. This study is a step towards that goal'.

This is the first study to analyse 'driver' mutations - as opposed to the 'passenger' mutations that are found in breast cancers, but don't contribute to the disease's development - in this level of detail. With the nine newly identified genes, the total number of known driver genes for breast cancer is 40. Seven of these were mutated in over 10 percent of these 100 cases.

Dr Christina Curtis, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC told the LA Times that finding new combinations of driver genes is an important part of understanding the way these mutations cause breast cancer. 'It seems we're getting closer', she said. 'With each study we're getting a new vantage point'.

The second study, published in the journal Cell, analysed the progression of 21 breast cancer tumours in more detail.

It found that a rapid 'storm' of mutations may be a major cause of breast cancer. They reported that mutations built up slowly at first, but then increased as time went on, with massively mutated localised areas of DNA appearing suddenly.

'What emerges is a really complex landscape of mutation, where each cancer seems to have been generated by a different combination of mutation processes', said Professor Stratton.

Breast cancer study reveals 'substantial genetic diversity'
LA Times |  16 May 2012
Genetic breast cancer 'map' drawn
Press Association |  17 May 2012
Mutations 'storm' may drive cancer
Press Association |  17 May 2012
New genetic 'map' drawn up that will give better diagnosis for breast cancer patients and more effective treatment
Daily Mail |  16 May 2012
Nine New Breast Cancer Risk Genes: Landscape of Cancer Genes and Mutational Processes in Breast Cancer Complicated
Science Daily |  16 May 2012
The landscape of cancer genes and mutational processes in breast cancer
Nature |  16 May 2012
21 January 2013 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Women at high risk of developing breast cancer should be offered preventative drugs, suggests the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in updated guidelines...
1 October 2012 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
Scientists have found molecular similarities between a subtype of breast cancer and a hard-to-treat form of ovarian cancer...
10 September 2012 - by Daryl Ramai 
Women carrying mutations in their BRCA genes may be more susceptible to breast cancer if exposed to diagnostic chest X-rays before the age of 30, say scientists...
9 July 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Two novel gene variants linked to breast size may also also influence the risk of breast cancer, according to a study carried out by US genetics company 23andMe....
8 May 2012 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A link between modifications to a white blood cell gene and an increased risk of breast cancer could be the basis for a simple blood test to identify women most at risk of developing the disease...
23 April 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Breast cancer can be reclassified into ten separate 'diseases' based on its genetic characteristics, according to scientists. Analysis of the DNA and RNA from almost 2,000 tumours identified ten genetically different subtypes of breast cancer with different survival outcomes. The information could be used to better predict the outcomes of the disease, as well as offer tailored treatment to patients...
26 March 2012 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A genetic test could be used to spare breast cancer patients from having to undergo postoperative chemotherapy...
31 January 2012 - by Maria Botcharova 
Two breast cancer drugs, Avastin and Sutent, may inadvertently aid cancer growth, a study in mice suggests. The drugs, designed to reduce the blood supply to tumours, were found to encourage cancer stem cell growth, potentially fuelling the spread of the cancer...
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.