Researchers Discover Why Breast Cancer Recurs


Many breast cancer survivors live with the possibility of the breast cancer recurring. It could even be after two decades but the likelihood looms in the shadows. To determine the possibility of a relapse, doctors have been looking at different things such as the size and grade of the tumor at diagnosis, the patient’s age and whether the tumor has spread into the lymph nodes. The reasons for recurrence have thus far been unclear and researchers attempted to remedy this by digging through and analyzing data about cancer patients diagnosed between 1977 and 2005 in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Using the molecular data on the cancers from about 2,000 cases, the researchers were able to come up with a computer model that enabled them identify four sub-groups that were at a high risk of relapse later in their lives. More information discovered includes:

  • About 25 percent of women diagnosed with the most common type of breast cancer are 42-55 percent at risk of relapsing within 20 years of diagnosis. These women showed all signs of being cured but later on presented with systemic disease.
  • The gene mutations in the four sub-groups caused signaling problems which can lead to the growth of unwanted cells. This can catalyze the development or progression of tumors.
  • Identifying the gene alterations has opened up the pathway for possible new treatment options. The new insight also provides an avenue for follow-up of at-risk cases that might benefit from other types of treatment to prevent a relapse.

From the results of the study, researchers are looking at a clinical trial for a treatment targeting the genomic defects in at-risk breast cancer patients.

While the data the researchers used included data from a time where patients had fewer and less advanced treatment options, it still proved useful in understanding breast cancer recurrence. Patients should expect better treatment options with these new findings.

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