The Power of Health Data: Landmark Breast Cancer Study Published

Circos plots, one way of visualizing genomic data.

A study published Sunday in the journal Nature provides unique insights into the characteristics of types of breast cancer.

The study, entitled “Comprehensive molecular portraits of human breast tumours”, consisted of extensive genomic analysis of human breast tumors from over 800 patients and was part of research conducted for the Cancer Genome Atlas, a large scale federal project investigating the genetic underpinnings of cancer.  The study identified four main subtypes of breast cancer based on genetic and epigentic abnormalities and has therapeutic implications for patients.  One notable finding identified a subtype as having molecular similarities to ovarian cancer.

Charles Perou, PhD, lead author of the paper, told the UNC press (Perou is Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology at UNC), “Through the use of multiple different technologies, we were able to collect the most complete picture of breast cancer diversity ever.  These studies have important implications for all breast cancer patients and confirm a large number of our previous findings. In particular, we now have a much better picture of the genetic causes of the most common form of breast cancer, namely Estrogen-Receptor positive/Luminal A disease. We also found a stunning similarity between Basal-like breast cancers and ovarian cancers.”

For more information, check out the New York Times write-up; Lizzie Crocker also provides an excellent run-down of major take aways for non-scientists over at the Daily Beast.

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