Research by Breakthrough Breast Cancer scientists in Edinburgh has discovered a new trait in breast cancer cases. The scientists state that 40% of breast cancer tumours change form when they spread to other parts of the body. This means that patients, who continue with the same treatment without further investigation, may be taking medication that will not work.
They analysed 211 tumours which had spread from breast cancer to the lymph nodes under the armpit and found that the disease changed form in a large number of cases. For example, 20 tumours changed from oestrogen receptor (ER) negative to ER positive. This means that hormone therapies that would not have helped the original cancer could be used to treat the changed form of cancer. Other tumours changed from ER positive to ER negative, leading to patients having treatment which would not benefit, and they have to experience the side effects for no positive reason.
Of the 46000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, 40% experience the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes. It is vital that women receive the correct treatment, particularly as cancer cells which spread in this way are more difficult to treat.
The scientists state that a clinical trial must ensue, to further research into this discovery and see how they can benefit patients. This research must be done before its approval on the NHS.
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