Protein markers may predict invasive breast cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers have identified protein markers that could predict whether or not a patient with an early non-invasive form breast cancer is likely to subsequently develop invasive cancer. Approximately 12 to 15 per cent of women with the condition ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) go on to develop invasive cancer within the next ten years. However, there is currently no reliable way of identifying those women who are most likely to develop future tumours. As a result, all patients tend to be offered similar treatment, regardless of their level of risk. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco have now found certain faulty molecules, known as biomarkers, that are associated with cells in DCIS that are more likely to form invasive tumours. The molecules are normally involved in triggering cell death, but if they are faulty then the cells can survive, and go on to become cancerous. Commenting on the study, which is published in the journal Cancer Cell, lead author Dr Thea Tlsty said: "Identification of biomarkers that predict future tumour development would allow us to stratify a woman's individual risk for subsequent invasive tumours and avoid over- and under- treatment." The scientist added that the biomarkers could be detected "far in advance to the development of invasive disease and present clinical opportunities for appropriate aggressive intervention". Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's senior science information officer, commented: "At the moment there is no way to tell which women with DCIS will go on to develop invasive breast cancer. "Although it's still at an early stage, research like this may help doctors in the future to decide which treatment a woman with DCIS needs, in order to treat the condition effectively while causing as few side-effects as possible."