Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. Doctors will diagnose one of two men and one of three women with cancer. And by 2030, there will be an estimated 23.6 million new cases worldwide. The four most common types are lung, bowel, prostate, and female breast cancer. In the US, the top five cancers in women include breast and gynecological cancers. However, it is now possible to target cancer cells at their molecular level. These advancements in the field of precision medicine are making treatment more personalized.
Another Step Forward in Precision Oncology
Researchers created the Human Genome Project in the 1990s to sequence and map out all the human genes. After almost two decades and $3 billion spent, researchers finally completed the project. Nowadays, it takes only 2 weeks and just a few thousand dollars to sequence an entire person’s genome. Doctors and scientists use this process of mapping out a person’s DNA code to understand cancer cells. Through this DNA sequencing process, researchers were able to build The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). This directory was able to catalog 33 different tumor types, including 10 rare types using samples taken from 11,000 patients.
The importance of this cancer database was again highlighted with the April 2018 publication of a study titled A Comprehensive Pan-Cancer Molecular Study of Gynecological and Breast Cancers. Ashton C. Berger headed the research. The gynecological cancer and breast cancer study analyzed the molecular data from 2,579 tumors taken from TCGA. The samples focus on high-grade serous ovarian cystadenocarcinoma, uterine corpus endometrial carcinoma, cervical squamous cell carcinoma and endocervical adenocarcinoma, uterine carcinosarcoma, and invasive breast carcinoma.
First, the gynecological cancer and breast cancer study recognized 11 new alterations and 11 new mutations not identified in earlier analyses. Second, the study identified a subtype as a potential marker for immunotherapy. Tumor markers are protein products found in blood or urine. They are helpful in the study of cancers as possible predictors of tumor risks. An increase in tumor markers may not always mean cancerous conditions. However, tumor markers can aid in the diagnosis. Lastly, the study could potentially help physicians through its proposed decision tree. Using a dichotomy-based method, doctors will be able to classify patients into one of five subtypes with an accuracy rate of above 80%.
Bold Impacts of this Gynecological Cancer and Breast Cancer Study
The survival rates of patients are slim when the cancer detection happens in its later stage. This can be quite challenging as most cancer types do not have symptoms until its advanced stage. Fortunately, the study significantly contributes to early detection of cancer. Doctors can use the biomarkers identified in this gynecological cancer and breast cancer study as a diagnostic tool for early cancer detection.
Another important contribution of this study is enabling clinicians to personalize the treatments of their patients. It is important to note that the cancer that occurs in one individual can be very different to what occurs in another individual. The reference provided by the decision tree created from this study will help doctors more effectively match the treatment and medication based on the patient’s subtype.
Importantly, the additional classifications and mutations identified in this gynecological cancer and breast cancer study will help develop new drugs and modify existing ones.
In 2018, there will be about 260,000 new breast cancer cases and about 100,000 new cases of gynecological cancers. However, we have made a lot of progress and the numbers are significantly lower. Since 1990, there is 34% reduction in breast cancer mortality rate. The 5-year survival rate is now at 99% and there are currently 3 million breast cancer survivors in the US. Additionally, tests for detecting gynecological cancers are now being used. These tests have reduced the mortality rate in the last 30 years. Forging ahead in the field of precision medicine, this gynecological cancer and breast cancer study helps us move forward.