Genetic changes could indicate whether a woman’s breast cancer will come back, researchers have found.

Around 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, and if it returns as secondary breast cancer it cannot be cured.

But scientists now believe they can test the DNA of women taking hormonal therapy to work out whether they’re at a high risk of the deadly secondary cancer.

This ‘promising’ discovery could help at-risk women get early treatment or prevention, they said.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied tumours from 62 women who took breast cancer drugs called aromatase inhibitors.

Aromatase inhibitors are hormonal drugs which reduce how much oestrogen the body produces, because oestrogen fuels the growth of breast tumours.

They are most commonly given to women who have already been through the menopause. 

In their study the scientists found women taking the inhibitors showed changes in genes which were active inside their tumours.

And the changes were different and noticeable in women who were more likely to suffer a relapse because their tumour began to grow again.

‘This is the first time we have been able to investigate genetic changes in individual patients’ tumours over time,’ said Dr Andy Sims.

‘We hope the findings will help to develop new tests that predict which women on hormone therapy are likely to relapse so that they can be offered alternative treatments.’

The genetic changes were noticeable within the first weeks of a woman taking hormone therapy, so could be used to predict her likelihood of relapse early on.

Around 35 per cent of breast cancer patients are diagnosed with secondary cancer – when the cancer cells spread through the body – within 10 years. 

Original Source

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