Identifying Markers of Invasive Breast Cancer
Harriet Kluger, M.D.,Associate Professor of Internal Medicine (Oncology)
Most early breast cancers that have not spread to the lymph nodes are treated with surgery (with or without radiation therapy), hormonal therapy (if the cancer is hormone sensitive), and chemotherapy. Without chemotherapy, 70 to 80 percent of these patients would still be cured; chemotherapy increases survival rates by only 2 to 10 percent. However, chemotherapy is offered to most patients because accurate predictors for which women are likely to have their breast cancer recur without chemotherapy are lacking. Dr. Harriet Kluger sought to identify genetic markers that signal those forms of early breast cancer which do and do not require chemotherapy.
Highlighted Study Findings
In this study, breast cancer cells were analyzed for expression levels of thousands of genes in cells that have low capacity for invading through breast structures, and in cells that were capable of invading the breast and spreading to other parts of the body. After evaluating multiple candidate genes considered for these studies, this project successfully identified that three genes in particular that were correlated with poor survival. By identifying these and other genetic markers, those forms of early breast cancer which do and do not require chemotherapy after surgery could be identified, thus saving many patients the toxicity and burden associated with the treatment. Health care providers have begun to use these screening techniques to inform treatment decisions.