Cancer Genome Atlas
Breakthrough: Scientists confirmed four primary breast cancer genetic subtypes.
Background: Late in 2012 the Cancer Genome Atlas project made a major advance. After pursuing genetic sequencing of 825 breast tumors, they determined that there are four main genetic subtypes of the disease: basal-like, HER2-enriched, Luminal A and Luminal B.
Significance: Observers and experts alike see the discovery, highlighted in the journal Nature, as something that will spur great changes in how breast cancers are both classified and diagnosed. Scientists have increasingly focused on the idea of categorizing a cancer based on its genetic subtype, instead of where doctors find it in the body. And this research reinforces that idea with some compelling data. Some of the subgroups already have targeted treatments in play, too, such as the HER2 variety, for which Roche ($RHHBY) has developed Herceptin (along with a companion diagnostic).
Next steps: This finding reinforces the idea of a much more targeted future for companion diagnostics. With four specific groups of breast cancer on the table (one that also resembles ovarian cancer), researchers gain some certainty in the push to develop more targeted treatments for each breast cancer type, and the industry will accelerate development of companion diagnostics to go with those very drugs.
Breast cancer gene finding upends Dx methodology