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Predicting Response to Breast Cancer Treatment

Decoding the DNA of patients with advanced breast cancer has allowed scientists to identify distinct cancer signatures that could help predict which women are most likely to benefit from estrogen-lowering therapy while sparing others from unnecessary treatment.

“This is one of the first cancer genomics studies to move beyond cataloging mutations involved in cancer to finding those that link to treatment response,” says senior author Elaine Mardis, PhD, co-director of The Genome Institute at Washington University.

“As a medical oncologist, I’m looking for clues for how to best treat my patients who have breast cancer,” says lead author Matthew Ellis, MD, PhD, a Washington University oncologist who treats patients at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Ellis and Mardis will soon begin a new trial that will base treatment decisions on the genomic signatures of each patient’s breast cancer tumor. Women likely to benefit from estrogen-lowering therapy will receive it, but those unlikely to respond will be treated with surgery followed by chemotherapy and drugs that target specific mutations in their tumors.

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