Patients / Information / Breast cancer

Breast cancer

Treatment and advances

A more precise cancer treatment

When diagnosing a cancer patient, it is important for that patient to receive the best treatment. Since each tumour has unique properties, it is impossible to adopt a generalised approach to cancer. Genetic profiling provides your doctor with relevant information about your specific type of cancer and may help in taking the best decision regarding treatment for that patient.

Advances in breast cancer

Breast cancer is different in each patient, and for that reason cancer specialists put all their effort into prescribing the treatment that is best adapted to the individual situation of each person. In most cases, the critical moment in treating breast cancer is the removal of the tumour. The next step may be to apply a complementary therapy to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading to another tissue (metastasis). In many cases it is difficult to determine whether a patient has a low or a high risk of the cancer spreading to other sites.

The cancer research team led by Dr. Laura van't Veer and Prof. René Bernards in the Netherlands Cancer Institute de Amsterdam compared the genomic profiles of tumours from a large number of women with breast cancer. The result of their research was the identification of 70 genes that are crucial for predicting the likelihood of metastasis in breast cancer following initial treatment for the patient’s cancer. This discovery was confirmed in large-scale international follow-up studies and validated clinically afterwards.

Genomic Profiling

What is the usefulness
of genomic profiling?

Currently, doctors and researchers consider that cancer is "a gene disorder" and it is in this field that new forms of treating genetic information that has not been available until now can be obtained for predicting the future behaviour of tumours. This is possible by identifying the molecular characteristics of a breast tumour, for example. A genomic profiling test may help to predict the risk of a tumour spreading. The information obtained may be useful in determining the risk of the disease recurring.

What are the potential benefits
of genomic profiling?

By identifying the specific genomic profile of the tumour, the information provided is thus totally personalized for a specific patient. This analysis can be used along with other more conventional tests to help doctors take the most appropriate decisions.

Microarray Technology

Why is DNA microarray technology used?

The DNA in each cell of the human body contains the same 25,000 genes, but their activity changes in each cell. The activity of the genes determines the behaviour of a cell, since the genes expressed are converted into proteins and these determine almost all the aspects of cell life. For instance, in the liver cells, the genes with the greatest activity are different from those of other tissues such as the kidney cells.  Consequently, breast cancers that are more aggressive have different guidelines of genetic activity from other breast cancers that are less aggressive and so it is possible to determine the degree of aggressiveness in a breast cancer if we study the activity of the cancer genes.

In 2002, Doctors Van't Veer, Bernards, van de Vijver and Friend published a series of articles in the journals Nature and New England Journal of Medicine about a genomic profiling method based on RNA, a messenger that predicts the clinical development of breast cancer, through DNA microarrays.

DNA microarray technology allows scientists to study the activity of thousands of genes at one time.

Useful links

Grupo Solti

Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer

Instituto Nacional del Cáncer

Federación Española de Cáncer de Mama