Genetic testing, computer risk-assessment software prove effective in predicting breast cancer

June 05, 2002

DALLAS - June 5, 2002 - Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have shown that examining breast cells' molecular makeup can provide a better way to predict breast-cancer risk and that computer-based risk-assessment tools can help identify women who would benefit from genetic testing.

The findings are published in separate papers in today's edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. David Euhus, associate professor of surgical oncology, is the lead author on both papers. He said that while the studies were separate, both suggest new approaches for identifying women at increased risk for breast cancer.

The women participating in the cell-examination study were not cancer patients; however, their risk of developing breast cancer had been assigned as low, moderate or high using the Gail model. The Gail model is a computer model known to be an accurate predictor of women's risk of developing breast cancer. Euhus found that the detection of small DNA deletions in breast cells from these women correlated with Gail-model risk and with precancerous changes in the cells diagnosed by routine microscopy.

"Our findings suggest that it is possible to develop an individualized approach to risk assessment using breast cells obtained by various methods," Euhus said.

While the Gail method is accurate at assigning risk, it can't predict which women it rates as high risk actually will develop breast cancer. Molecular analysis of breast cells may solve this problem.

In the cell-examination study, Euhus and his colleagues obtained cell samples from the breast through fine-needle aspiration, using a small-gauge needle to extract clusters of cells. Euhus said cells also could be gathered for analysis using methods such as ductal lavage, where cells are collected from milk ducts.

In addition to traditional microscopic examination for outward abnormalities, the cells were subjected to DNA analysis to look for internal damage that could foreshadow the genetic mutations that cause breast cancer. Some cells that showed no outward irregularities were found to have DNA damage.

"We know that the genome becomes unstable before the cancer forms," Euhus said. "For whatever reason, certain cells in an organ stop making accurate copies of their DNA when they divide, and they don't fix DNA damage like they should."

The second study compared the effectiveness of experienced genetic counselors at identifying BRCA mutation carriers against that of BRCAPRO, a statistics-based software tool. Euhus, who developed a BRCAPRO interface for his own CancerGene risk-assessment package, said the software did just as well as experienced counselors at identifying mutation carriers.

That's important, he said, because such analysis is a vital step. Some women at very high risk may opt for preventive surgical removal of their breasts or ovaries and fallopian tubes before cancer can form. Such surgeries dramatically reduce cancer risk, but the decision is difficult to make. Euhus said the results show that BRCAPRO and possibly other automated tools could complement experienced genetic counselors and help less-experienced counselors make recommendations.

"Of the women with a family history of breast cancer, we need to know which ones to send on for genetic testing. This will identify the highest-risk women who are likely to benefit from preventive surgery," he said.
-end-
Other UT Southwestern contributors to the cell-examination study were Dr. George Peters, executive director of the Southwestern Center for Breast Care; Dr. A. Marilyn Leitch, medical director of the Southwestern Center for Breast Care; and Dr. Adi F. Gazdar, senior author of the paper and professor of pathology in the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research.

UT Southwestern collaborators on the study comparing the effectiveness of BRCAPRO with genetic counselors were Linda Robinson, a genetic counselor in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Dr. Gail Tomlinson, senior author and director of the Mary L. Brown Breast Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment Program. Other institutions contributing to the study were the University of Chicago; the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine; and the University of Kansas Medical Center.

To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail, send a message to UTSWNEWS-REQUEST@listserv.swmed.edu. Leave the subject line blank and in the text box, type SUB UTSWNEWS.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.