Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Optimising breast cancer diagnosis

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Since breast cancer cells are often oestrogen dependent, one of the methods currently used for its treatment is endocrine therapy. Nevertheless, a large majority of such tumours fail to respond to this therapy. This research study has focused on the extensive examination of a specific gene that correlates with oestrogen dependent immunochemistry as a diagnostic investigation in patients with metastases, for a better prognosis and response to endocrine treatment in the adjuvant setting.
Optimising breast cancer diagnosis
Breast cancer can be treated by several methods. There are four types of treatment currently used, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. The latter involves endocrine manipulation to change the hormonal balance of the body to prevent hormone dependent cancer cells from multiplying. Particularly for recurrent and metastatic cancer, where cancer has spread to other organs of the body, usually to the lymph nodes, this type of treatment is the most appropriate one.

Oestrogen receptor tests are types of tests carried out on cancerous tissue to see if the cancer is hormone-dependent and may be treated with hormonal therapy. Patients whose breast tumours are marked as oestrogen receptor-positive are given drugs to suppress the production of oestrogen in their bodies. However, almost 30-40% of such tumours fail to respond to such endocrine treatment.

In order to overcome this problem, recent research focused on the study of a specific gene, namely pLIV-1, which is found in a large proportion of oestrogen receptor positive breast cancers. The study has broadened its interests to include information about the chances of the tumour's recurrence and the possible metastases to other organs, particularly the lymph nodes. Hence, a greater chance for recovery and a lesser chance of breast cancer metastases may occur if the detection of this gene is also included in the conventional diagnostic method employed.

The presence of the pLIV-1 gene has opened new avenues of research that will lead to a clearer understanding of hormonally dependent breast cancer and more accurate means of predicting response to hormonal treatment. Moreover, based on gene specificity, a more effective hormonal treatment might also be developed.
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