Redefining cancer as 10 different diseases

Carol Roach By Carol Roach, 22nd Nov 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Diseases & Infections

New research shows that breast cancer is actually 10 different kinds of cancer. This new information will make diagnosis and treatment better in the long run.

Cancer therapy

We have made remarkable advances in the treatment of breast cancer over the years with the use of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, drugs, and healthy diet. Screening measures have also improved; but still, medical doctors are not sufficiently able to predict the diagnosis of any patient. You can say that this prediction is left to God, or if you are not religious, it is simply beyond the grasp of modern medicine.

Even the patients who are in exactly the same stage of tumor growth and spread ability will have different outcomes in terms of cure and fatality rates. The truth is that these tumors do react differently to treatment.

Types of cancer

Some breast cancer tumors have lots of hormone receptors and these tumors respond well to antiestrogen drugs such as tamoxifen or the newer class of aromatase inhibitors. These tumors occur because of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

On the other hand, other tumors do not have the receptors for estrogen and progesterone. These tumors are not as predictable as the estrogen/progesterone triggered ones. They do however, respond to chemotherapy treatment. Tumors known as HER2 account for about 20 percent of all breast tumors. They don’t have estrogen/progesterone receptors and they spread rather rapidly.

Recently, doctors have been using the HER2-targeting drug Herceptin in combination with chemotherapy to eradicate these tumors with some degree of success.

There is another type of cancer tumor which does not have estrogen/progesterone receptors or HER2 receptors and they are called triple-negative. If they don’t come back after two to three years then they are cured; however, many of them do come back even with the treatment of radiation and chemotherapy.

Diagnosis can be difficult

Because of all these factors, choosing the right treatment is often an uphill battle for doctors; the type of tumor, the stage and grade of the tumor, makes proper diagnosis so difficult to begin with and the prognosis even more elusive.

“Just published online in Nature, we have been given a whole new roadmap of the biology of breast cancer; with it comes the ability to more accurately predict the behaviour of individual tumors. This breakthrough was made by a consortium (known by the acronym METABRIC) of Canadian- and U.K-based. cancer researchers led by Drs. Samuel Aparicio of Vancouver’s British Columbia Cancer Centre and Carlos Caldas of the Cambridge Research Institute."

According to the study which examines the different clusters of abnormal genes, the group found that Breast cancer is not one, but 10 different diseases! Each subtype exhibits unique genetic (and, therefore, biological) characteristics.

All photos taken from the public domain

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Antiestrogen Drugs, Aromatase Inhibitors, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Cancer Screening, Cancer Surgery, Chemotherapy, Drugs, Healthy Diet, Herceptin, Progesterone, Radiation, Tamoxifen, Tumor

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar RondaKay
22nd Nov 2015 (#)

This was EXTREMELY informative. My aunt went through chemo for breast cancer. Thank you for helping me better understand it.

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