Details on breakthrough Breast Cancer research - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Details on breakthrough Breast Cancer research

VANCOUVER, CANADA (NBC) -- When you're in a serious fight, it helps to know your enemy.  Thursday morning, we learned a lot more about Breast Cancer.

A landmark Canadian study has mapped the genetic code of a serious tumor.  Unraveling the mysteries of how cancer begins and what makes it spread.  Researchers call it a breakthrough - one that could lead to new treatments, new therapies, and hope.

Inside a vat at the BC Cancer Research Center, preserved at minus 180 degrees Celsius, hundreds of Breast Cancer tissue samples containing the secrets to why cancer spreads.

Clues to future treatments.  But first scientists need to break the genetic code preserved in the frozen cells.  Something that has been time consuming and costly to do.  Until now.

Using the latest equipment, Dr. Samuel Aparacio has sequenced the entire genome of a breast cancer tumor that spread

"We've never had the possibility to go in and retrieve all of the sequence and all of ht mutations present in any particular cancer. So we've done it for the first time now in a breast cancer metastasis and in the primary cancer," Dr. Samuel Aparacio said.

An achievement that has earned his team a place on the cover of the prestigious journal Nature this week.  Because by reading the genetic alphabet of a breast cancer tumor that's spread, and comparing it to the original, they've now been able to see in exquisite detail something they've always known, that a cancer tumor is filled with many different kinds of cells-and more are created by mutations that can happen with every cell division.

"Over the long term we hope that being able to decode the sequence of tumors on a routine basis will lead us to being able to better predict which combinations of medicines to use when treating a cancer. We're not quite there yet but this is an important step forward," Dr. Samuel Aparacio said.

So far they've sequenced the genes in one patient's tumor.  Now they'll start doing more.  Building an encyclopedia of data on breast cancer that was not possible before, to look for patterns of mutations and try to understand which ones are doing the dirty work, and causing the disease to spread information they hope will lead to improved therapies.

The news was exciting for oncologist and researcher in Halifax.

"We still subject a lot of women to treatments of uncertain benefits so anything that helps us narrow the treatment focus down is going to be a major advance," Dr. Daniel Rayson said.

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