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Top Story

Biomarker identified for likely aggressive, early stage breast cancer

The one-size-fits-all approach to early stage breast cancer creates a paradox: Millions of dollars are spent on surgeries and radiation to treat women with low-risk "in situ" lesions, an estimated 85 percent of which would never progress to invasive cancers. Meanwhile, the standard conservative treatment is insufficient for many early-stage tumors that have progressed past the in situ stage and fails to prevent their spread to distant sites in the body. Whitehead Institute researchers have identified SMARCE1, a gene overexpressed in the subset of early-stage cancers that are likely to become aggressively invasive -- making it possible for the first time to distinguish poorly invasive tumors from those that will likely spread and metastasize. With such a biomarker, doctors could better tailor therapies designed to match the behavior of each patient’s cancer. The researchers found that 50 percent of the early-stage cancers with high SMARCE1 expression will metastasize at some point in the 10 to 15 years after their initial diagnosis.

Visit Website | Image credit: Ethan Sokol/Whitehead Institute