Relapse risk could be predicted by cancer’s ‘internal wiring’

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The “internal wiring” of breast cancer can predict which women are more likely to survive or relapse, say researchers. The study shows that breast cancer is 11 separate diseases that each has a different risk of coming back.

The hope is that the findings, in the journal Nature, could identify people needing closer monitoring and reassure others at low risk of recurrence.

The scientists, at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, looked in incredible detail at nearly 2,000 women’s breast cancers. They went far beyond considering all breast cancers as a single disease and beyond modern medicine’s way of classifying the tumours.

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By following women for 20 years, they are now able to show which types of breast cancer are more likely to come back.

It showed that triple negative breast cancers – one of the hardest types to treat – were not all one class of cancer, but two. Prof [Carlos] Caldas said: “One where if women have not relapsed by five years they are probably cured, but a second subgroup are still at significant risk of later relapse.”

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