Susan Young Rojahn

A View from Susan Young Rojahn

Scientists Identify 10 Breast Cancer Sub-types with DNA analysis

Classifying cancers should help doctors better understand a patient’s response to therapies and prioritize drug design.

  • April 20, 2012

An international team of researchers has used a combination of genomic and gene expression analyses to identify 10 subtypes of breast cancer, each of which is typified by certain genetic aberrations. The classification of cancers can help researchers and doctors better understand patients’ responses to different therapeutics as well as prioritize drug design efforts for the most deadly of molecular disruptions.

The largely Canadian and UK team studied nearly 2000 breast tumor specimens from patients whose medical conditions were tracked for as many as 20 years after the specimens were taken. The researchers analyzed the genome sequences and gene expression levels of the tumors using DNA hybridization technology to examine changes in chromosomal architecture known as “copy number aberrations.” Breast cancer exhibits many of these structural changes–abnormal repetitions of chunks of chromosomes that can greatly alter the molecular landscape of a cell. 

The researchers also identified molecular changes within some of the subtypes that could one day help doctors decide how to best treat an individual’s particular tumor type. Some clinics are already using DNA analysis to “personalize” cancer treatments and studies like this can focus doctors and drug companies on the most effective molecular targets for treatment or R&D.

The team is currently sequencing the genomes of some of the specimens, says Samuel Aparicio, a physician and cancer geneticist the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre in Vancouver. “We need the full mutational framework for breast cancers,” he says, referring to the more complete picture that whole-genome sequencing will provide. What the team learned in this study could help “shortcut some of the framework building by directing our attention to specific groups,” he says.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

You've read of free articles this month.