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New research could lead to better treatment for some types of breast cancer

Matthew Ellis
Washington University

Researchers at Washington University used new technology to unravel the entire genetic helix for a subset of breast cancer, called basal-like, and found that it is more like ovarian cancer than other types of breast cancer.

The study’s co-Leader, Mathew Ellis, said that means techniques used to tackle ovarian cancer could be more effective than traditional methods for basal-like breast cancer.

“The more we understand about an individual breast cancer the more we can actually treat the patient accurately,” Ellis said.  “I like to call this genome forward medicine.”

Ellis, however, is quick to point out that it could be years before the findings can be translated into better treatment outcomes.

“The challenge is to bring this genomic medicine to the beginning of each patient’s diagnosis, fundamentally understand that disease, and prospectively use that information to decide on the treatment course,” Ellis said.  “That could be four to six years away.” 

Basal-like breast cancer accounts for about 10 percent of all cases and disproportionately affects young women and African Americans.    

The new research is part of a larger initiative called the Cancer Genomic Atlas, which seeks to map the genetic variations in common forms of cancer.  

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.

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