Scientists, part-funded by Breast Cancer Now, develop a new method that could identify breast cancers that contain a diverse number of cancerous and normal cells, and are therefore more likely to progress and lead to death.
Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, London – part-funded by Breast Cancer Now – have developed a new method that, borrowed from measures of species diversity in ecology, could identify breast cancers that contain a diverse number of cancerous and normal cells and are therefore more likely to progress and lead to death.
The study, published today in the journal PLoS Medicine, concludes that the method could be used in the clinic to assess how likely patients' breast cancers are to be aggressive, and to help tailor treatment accordingly.
Katie Goates, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“This is a completely new approach, building on ecological principles to analyse the types of cell in a breast tumour as if they were species of animals in a given area.
“This study confirms previous findings that the different types of non-cancer cells within a tumour can influence and – more importantly – tell doctors how a tumour is going to progress.
“By using a method usually seen in ecology, the study is a real reminder of the need to be open to innovative ideas from anywhere in science in order to make progress on breast cancer.
“We look forward to further work using this unique approach that will help us better understand the environment of cells that exists in and around tumours; ultimately, this could help us predict patient outcomes and plan treatment responses more effectively."