Cambridge Project Studying Genetic Markers of Breast Cancer to Better Tailor Treatments

Cambridge Project Studying Genetic Markers of Breast Cancer to Better Tailor Treatments

A breast cancer research project getting underway at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute aims to identify genetic markers that could predict a patient’s likely response to different therapies — allowing treatment to be better tailored to the individual.

“We already know that there are around 10 different types of breast cancer … and these respond differently to the available treatments,” Carlos Caldas, project leader at the Institute, said in a press release. “We’re looking at ways to predict this response ensuring individual patients get the best treatment for them. We hope that this project will accelerate progress in developing personalised treatment for breast cancer patients.”

Breast cancer patients are treated based on their tumor subtype, and certain subtypes are known to respond well to certain therapies. For example, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers respond to endocrine therapies, but not all patients with this subtype respond equally well to the treatment.

By analyzing the genome and all expressed genes from 250 breast cancer patients, the researchers are hoping to find which DNA and RNA patterns are linked to better — and which to suboptimal —  responses.

“The Personalised Breast Cancer Project is truly ground-breaking,” said Richard Gilbertson, director of the CRUK Major Cancer Centre at Cambridge University. “By sequencing the entire tumour genome of women with breast cancer in our clinic and integrating this extensive data with other biological and clinical observations, we will assign patients to optimal therapy, changing the way we treat breast cancer forever.”

The project was launched with funding from Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), a charity organization that supports innovation and patient care across the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Rosie Hospital.

“ACT is pleased to have been able to support the initiation of this clinical research project with more than £1.1 million of funding from many generous supporters,” said Dr. Jenny Longmore, ACT’s director of research. “The project will involve patients from the Cambridge Breast Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and we expect that the outcomes of the research will be valuable to patients both nationally and internationally in years to come.”