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A team of scientists with The Cancer Genome Atlas program have genetically mapped 800 breast tumors, and have categorized them into four subtypes.

The work, which was published September 23, 2012, in the journal Nature fundamentally reshapes the way scientists understand breast cancer and paves the way for personalized treatment of the disease.

Charles Perou, Ph.D., a professor of molecular oncology and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center who led the study, said the research was a near complete framework for the genetic causes of breast cancer, which will significantly impact clinical medicine in the coming years.

“Through the use of multiple different technologies, we were able to collect the most complete picture of breast cancer diversity ever,” said Perou. “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.” 

The study has immediate therapeutic implications, because drugs are on the market that could potentially help the distinct types of breast cancers.

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Published September 24, 2012.