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01 October 2015 09:23
The early diagnosis of breast cancer is vital
Genetic mutations which are only usually seen in breast cancers that return after treatment have been identified by researchers.
It is now hoped the scientists' findings could pave the way for the development of a test to identify patients who are likely to experience a relapse.
Being able to identify such cancers when patients get their first diagnosis would enable medics to give those who are most at risk of a relapse tailor-made treatments.
Around a fifth of all breast cancer patients suffer a relapse after their treatment, with tumours either reappearing in the same place as the original one or in a different part of the body.
Those who do suffer a relapse can still be given the peace of mind they want on their travels by taking out a cancer travel insurance policy.
The researchers looked at 1,000 tumour samples, 161 of which were taken from patients with recurring or spreading cancers.
The team then compared the DNA from relapsed cancers with that found in samples taken when the disease was first diagnosed.
Dr Lucy Yates, of the Cambridgeshire-based Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, says the research team found that some genetic variations which cause breast cancers to return are fairly rare - at the point of diagnosis - among ones that do not relapse.
The genetic differences, she says, could be used to predict how predisposed a cancer is to return, adding that some of the variations could be targeted by drugs.
Professor Peter Naredi, scientific co-chairman of the 2015 European Cancer Congress, says such findings are vital as they will help doctors improve the combination of treatments that are given and enable them to be tailored to each patient.
He adds that the study highlights the importance of treating a returning cancer as a fresh event and selecting the correct therapy to target it with.
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