Scientists study six "classes" of breast cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists have identified six separate classes of breast cancer, a discovery that could lead to more effective treatments for the disease. The variations, which are distinguished by the different proteins present in the cancer cells, have different clinical features - such as different survival rates and responses to different drugs. The findings were reported at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Birmingham by a team from the University of Nottingham. Senior researcher Dr Andy Green said it would have "important implications for the future diagnosis and treatment of the disease". "Knowing what class of breast cancer a patient has will help doctors to decide on the best treatments specific to that patient ? particularly as the trend towards customised therapeutics continues," he explained. Tissue samples from over 1,000 patients with the disease were used to develop the classifications. Of the six subsets, two were associated with longer survival rates, while one had a survival rate markedly below the others. However, further work using a larger sample is now expected to refine the classification, with 40 per cent of the original samples sharing characteristics from the different classes. Dr Kat Arney, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, commented: "Breast cancer is not just one disease, and different types of breast cancer need different treatments. "In the future, this classification strategy may help doctors to make better decisions about how to treat women, so everyone gets the best possible therapy. "There's still more work to be done, as there are more breast cancers that don't fit into these six categories, but this is an important step along the road to more effective treatments."