Scientists have created one of the most detailed maps of breast cancer ever achieved, revealing how genetic changes shape the physical tumor landscape, according to research funded by Cancer Research UK and published in Nature Cancer today (Monday).
An international team of scientists, brought together by an ambitious £20 million Grand Challenge award from Cancer Research UK, has developed intricate maps of breast tumor samples, with a resolution smaller than a single cell.
These maps show how the complex cancer landscape - made up of cancer cells, immune cells and connective tissue - varies between and within tumors, depending on their genetic makeup.
This technique could one day provide doctors with an unparalleled wealth of information about each patient's tumor upon diagnosis, allowing them to match each patient with the best course of treatment for them.
In the future, it could also be used to analyze tumors during treatment, allowing doctors to see in unprecedented detail how tumors are responding to drugs or radiotherapy. They could then modify treatments accordingly, to give each patient the best chance of beating the disease.
Dr. Raza Ali, lead author of the study and junior group leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: "At the moment, doctors only look for a few key markers to understand what type of breast cancer someone has. But as we enter an era of personalized medicine, the more information we have about a patient's tumor, the more targeted and effective we can make their treatment."
The researchers studied 483 different tumor samples, collected as part of the Cancer Research UK funded METABRIC study, a project that has already revolutionized our understanding of the disease by revealing that there are at least 11 different subtypes of breast cancer.
The team looked within the samples for the presence of 37 key proteins, indicative of the characteristics and behavior of cancer cells. Using a technique called imaging mass cytometry, they produced detailed images, which revealed precisely how each of the 37 proteins were distributed across the tumor. Related Stories
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