Women given new treatment hope in breast cancer fight
THOUSANDS of women with an early form of breast cancer could avoid gruelling radiotherapy in future thanks to a ground-breaking discovery.
Scientists in Manchester have identified a way to predict which patients diagnosed with the early stages of the disease will go on to develop a more invasive illness.
Researchers at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre used tumour samples taken from more than 300 patients who had cancer cells in their milk ducts and found those who tested positive for a key protein – HER2 – were more likely to see their cancer return.
Cancer doctors cannot currently predict which cases will progress – meaning that all women with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) have to undergo surgery and sometimes unnecessary radiotherapy.
Professor Nigel Bundred, from the University of Manchester and Wythenshawe Hospital, who led the study, said: “Our findings suggest that the additional information from testing HER2 could allow us to better identify those most at risk from an invasive relapse.
“These tests are cheap and easy to carry out and could help some patients avoid unnecessary treatment.”
DCIS is a precursor to breast cancer.
Without treatment, half of patients will have their disease come back – either as DCIS or as invasive breast cancer.
The study was designed to find out which DCIS cases were most likely to reoccur as invasive cancer.
They found that patients whose tumours tested positive for two proteins - the oestrogen and progesterone receptors – but negative for HER2 were less likely to see their cancer come back.
Other types of DCIS were significantly more likely to recur as invasive breast cancer.
Out of 314 women who took part in the study, 57 saw their disease return and 22 developed invasive cancer.
HER2 positive breast cancers tend to grow more quickly than HER2 negative cancers.
But testing for HER2 is currently only routine for patients with more advanced forms of the disease.
The study suggests testing for HER2 could now help doctors individualise treatment for patients with DCIS.
Prof Bundred said: “This research could have potential benefits for thousands of women.”