Scientists have identified a protein which could help predict the chances of survival for women with the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.
The breakthrough, made by a research team at Nottingham University, could help those people with triple negative breast cancer and basal-like breast cancer - the most aggressive forms of the disease affecting up to 8,000 women each year in the UK.
These types of breast cancer are more likely to spread and, unlike other forms of the disease, they do not have high levels of receptors that can be targeted with treatments such as tamoxifen.
Scientists, led by Dr Stewart Martin, studied levels of proteins known as calpains in breast tumours from more than 1,300 patients, to see if these protein levels were linked to their survival.
Dr Martin said the results, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, need closer study but believes we could see a test that could aid prognosis in as little as five to ten years.
He said: “In the longer term we would hope to develop new treatments for these forms of the disease.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, which has funded the research, said, “Being able to offer personalised treatment is the holy-grail for all breast cancers, but particularly vital for triple negative and basal-like breast cancers, which are currently some of the most difficult breast cancers to treat. We hope that work like Dr Martin’s will be able to improve the options available to these women in the not too distant future.”
Dr Martin is also investigating whether these proteins alter how breast tumours respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Being able to better predict survival for patients with these breast cancers would be a first step in helping doctors to decide how to personalise treatments, which could have a real impact in improving outcomes for triple-negative and basal-like breast cancers.”