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More progress and the importance of studying breast cancer genomes

May 25, 2012

Found in Genomics

In another recent study this year with Dr. Sam Aparicio, and Dr. Carlos Caldas, of Cambridge University, we explored the genomes of breast cancers and my team was responsible for the computational analysis of more than two million genomic measurements for each of 2000 breast cancers. You can read more about study here, it was also published in Nature magazine.

We set out to find patterns in the population of breast cancer tumours, and look at other questions like, what genomic patterns are in common? And could they be used to group patients together to help predict clinical behaviour?

Using state of the art approaches to interpret this truly massive dataset, we discovered that there are likely 10 groups of breast cancer with different genomic architectures and in turn different molecular behaviour. This establishes new subtypes of breast cancer that we didn’t know about before and with the scale of this project it has provided the power to find subtypes that were defined by as little as 4% of the population. This study and the one mentioned in my last post, were both published in the journal Nature last month and are very exploratory in nature. While they establish the importance of studying the genomes of breast cancers, it is fair to say that we didn’t know what we would find at the outset.

In addition these studies made use of brand new technologies and approaches, and were conducted on a very large scale. It is precisely these types of initiatives that are very difficult to fund in a traditional competitive granting scenario. This is where you – the donors, make an enormous difference to enable us, the scientists and researchers, at the BC Cancer Agency to do our work!

Through your contributions, we now have a much clearer picture about the genomes of breast cancer and this provides us with a road map for where to look next. More on this in the next post.