Young women's breast cancers have more aggressive genes, worse prognosis

July 08, 2008

DURHAM, N.C. -- Young women's breast cancers tend to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment than the cancers that arise in older women, and researchers at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy may have discovered part of the reason why: young women's breast cancers share unique genomic traits that the cancers in older women do not exhibit.

"Clinicians have long noted that the breast cancers we see in women under the age of 45 tend to respond less well to treatment and have higher recurrence rates than the disease we see in older women, particularly those over the age of 65," said Kimberly Blackwell, M.D., a breast oncologist at Duke and senior investigator on the study. "Now we're really understanding why this is the case, and by understanding this, we may be able to develop better and more targeted therapies to treat these younger women."

The results appear in the July 10 Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Duke researchers looked at samples of nearly 800 breast tumors from women in five countries on three continents, and divided them into age-specific cohorts. The investigators found more than 350 sets of genes that were active only in the tumors from women under age 45. Conversely, tumors arising in women over age 65 did not share these activated gene sets.

"The breast tumors that arose in younger women shared a common biology, and this discovery was truly remarkable," Blackwell said. "The genes that regulate things like immune function, oxygen supply and mutations that we know are related to breast cancer, such as BRCA1, were preferentially expressed in the tumors taken from younger women, but when we compared younger women's tumors to older women's tumors, we found those same gene sets were not expressed in the 'older' tumors."

Researchers have already developed compounds that target some of the activated gene expression pathways that the Duke team discovered, and many of these compounds have promise for combating young women's tumors, Blackwell said. Identifying these characteristic gene expression profiles will be an important part of finding new therapies, she said.

"Many of the gene sets we saw in 'younger' tumors distinguished these cancers from 'older' tumors but the reverse was not true -- there was nothing we saw in the older women's tumors that set them apart genomically," Blackwell said. "Identifying these distinguishing characteristics may be the first step in developing more effective treatments for these younger patients."
-end-
Other researchers involved in this study include Carey Anders, David Hsu, Gloria Broadwater, Chaitanya Acharya, John Foekens, Yi Zhang, Yixin Wang, Kelly Marcom, Jeffrey Marks, Phillip Febbo, Joseph Nevins and Anil Potti.

Duke University 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.