Mayo team spies new class of breast cancer mutation

Breast cancer is among the more studied cancers. So it is particularly noteworthy when scientists discover something new, such as a novel class of molecular mutation in various forms of the disease.

Mayo Clinic researchers and others have done just that in discovering what are known as fusion transcripts, or mutated forms of RNA, for various breast cancer subtypes. Details are published in the journal Cancer Research.

The researchers explain that fusion transcripts are more typical in leukemia, lymphoma or other blood cancers. Finding them in breast cancer tumors matters, they say, because it potentially moves cancer diagnosis and treatment beyond the three typically acknowledged kinds of breast tumors: estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, HER2-positive and triple negative. More studies are needed, the scientists say, but the potential value of the finding runs the gamut of possibilities as far as producing a more personalized breast cancer treatment. Fusion transcripts appear, they say, when chromosomes break apart and recombine--something typical for cancer cells.

Senior investigator Edith Perez, deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida, said in a statement that the discovery is the first step toward finding gene biomarkers that could predict how a specific breast cancer tumor will respond to a given treatment. Adds E. Aubrey Thompson, professor of biology at the center: "Fusion transcripts have the power to produce proteins that are relevant to tumor development, growth and sensitivity to treatment, so we may have a brand new set of genomic changes that may help us understand, and treat, breast cancer in a new way." We hope the research team proceeds with further research soon, to see if their finding bears fruit.

An interesting aside: A researcher from Illumina ($ILMN) took part in the study. The gene sequencing company is fighting off a hostile takeover bid from drug giant Roche ($RHHBY).

- here's the release
- read the journal transcript