Breast cancer gene finding upends Dx methodology

A finding that there are four main genetic subtypes of breast cancer creates enormous new opportunities for diagnostics companies. And the research, conducted by the Cancer Genome Atlas project and published in the journal Nature, could further upend the diagnostics industry as the science behind personalized medicine continues to advance, Bloomberg reports.

One of the biggest transformations might involve how breast cancers are classified and subsequently diagnosed. The old way has involved measuring factors such as how much they invade other tissues, their appearance when stained with some chemicals and how much their cellular structure varies. But the research finding could change all of this, Paul Billings, a geneticist and medical director of DNA sequencer Life Technologies, told Bloomberg.

"The new world is a diagnostic system that will be based on targetable DNA mutations present in breast cancer," Billings said in the article.

According to the story, the new research supports previous work that used genetic markers to break down breast cancer into four groups: HER2-enriched, Luminal A, Luminal B and basal-like. Tangible changes in diagnostics and treatments could be years away. But with that understanding in play, doctors can further advance their research looking at which drugs work best on patients based on their cancers' genetic profiles. The diagnostics industry, in turn, can further their own efforts to create cutting-edge tests on their own, or as companion diagnostics with new drugs, to identify a specific type of breast (or other) cancer and the corresponding treatment that will be most effective.

- read the Bloomberg story
- here's the NYT's take (sub. req.)
- check out the Nature research