Breast Cancer Survival Rates Will Improve With The Australian-Led Discovery Of Gene Signatures

Breast cancer survivor Olivia Newton-John.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

An Australian-led study has found a more powerful predictor for aggressive breast cancers which will ensure women get the most effective treatment.

The scientists are confident of converting the discovery into a quick pathology test within the next three years.

Dr Fares Al-Ejeh, of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, has found new gene “signatures” which can predict survival rates in all breast cancer cases.

“There are tests on the market now, but they have their limitations. They are restricted to specific types of breast cancers or not useful for aggressive subtypes,” Dr Al-Ejeh said.

“This is not just another test. It outperforms current tests and, importantly, will apply to all breast cancers. It can also give a more accurate picture of survival rates in the particularly aggressive sub-sets: triple-negative breast cancer, high grade breast cancer and breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes.

“So the beauty of this discovery is that we can separate survival rates even within those very aggressive cancers. Ultimately, it can mean overhauling treatment plans for women.”

Every woman’s breast cancer has its own, individual gene fingerprint, a specific combination of genes.

This research has isolated two gene signatures: one that is found in all breast cancer cases, and a second that is found in triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive subset which accounts for about 20% of cases and usually affects young women.

Dr Al-Ejeh and collaborators at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will seek funding to advance the technology.

The research findings are published today in the the journal Oncogenesis.

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