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Research Sheds Light on Aggressive Breast Cancers

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New research conducted by Breakthrough Breast Cancer is shedding new light on some of the more aggressive types of breast cancer.

Cancerous tumors of the breast are comprised of two types of tissue that resemble human breast tissue:  those made up of basal cells, and those made up of luminal cells.  Basal like tumors are those tumors that are made up of cells that are very similar to the basal cells that line the mammary duct, while luminal cancers are much like the luminal, or inner cells of the breast.

Up until now, most researchers and medical professionals have thought that aggressive forms of tumors that contain the inherited BRCA1 mutation originated from basal cells, while lesser aggressive cancers were thought to have arisen from luminal cells.

During the current research, however, scientists stumbled upon something surprising.  For the study, they deleted the BRCA1 gene in both basal and luminal cells in mice.

Although tumors sprang up in both types of cells, only the luminal cells had the characteristics of human BRCA1 cancers. The research team also matched basal-like triple negative cancers in the luminal cells.

To further understand the relevance and importance of this new discovery, it’s important to realize that researchers have divided the most prevalent forms of breast cancers into four molecular subtypes:  triple negative/basal-like, luminal A, luminal B and HER2/neu-positive.

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, triple negative cancers are named thusly because they are estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative, and HER2/neu-positive.
In addition, the Komen site states that most BRCA1 and many BRCA2 cancers are both triple negative and basal-like.

Regarding this new research that seems to point to the contrary, lead author Dr. Matt Smalley contends that these new finding regarding the origin of BRCA1 tumors will spawn research that focuses on more “targeted treatments for breast cancer patients in the future.”

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