Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered a genetic signature that may help identify patients at high risk of breast cancer recurrence despite been treated with chemotherapy drugs.
According to them, despite their resistance to drugs of the anthracycline class, the breast cancers bearing this gene signature will probably still be vulnerable to other types of chemotherapy agents.
Lead researchers Dr Andrea Richardson and Dr Zhigang Charles Wang studied the molecular traits in tumours that cause recurrences in the wake of breast cancer surgery despite post-surgery, or "adjuvant," chemotherapy.
They discovered two genes that, when abnormally active, enabled cancer cells to resist the effects of drugs called anthracyclines.
This class of agents includes doxorubicin, daunorubicin, and epirubicin, which are often used as adjuvant therapy in breast cancer.
"These results suggest that tumors resistant to anthracyclines may still be sensitive to other agents," Nature quoted Richardson, who is also on faculty at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
"So this would be very useful as a test to help pick the therapy that's going to be most effective for these patients," she added.
The study has shown that the expression level of these two genes was highly associated with anthracycline resistance in the tumors.
The researchers hope that the new findings could lead to a genetic test of breast cancers to help physicians choose the best initial treatment for an individual patient.
The study appears in journal Nature Medicine.