A Clue on How We Might Be Able to “Do Better”

So many times when we talk about breast cancer screening and treatment, we say “we need to do better.”  Today (Day 2 of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium) I heard a presentation on microRNA’s that made me sit up and take notice – this could be how we do better.

MicroRNAs are a relatively newly defined type of genetic material, first named in 2001.  There has been a burst of research on them and several papers have been published in the last 18 months on circulating miRNAs and various diseases.  Research presented today was the first to look at miRNAs in breast cancer patients.

Dr. Heneghan of the National University of Ireland described her work on the search for miRNAs that could serve as biomarkers for breast cancer.  From blood samples of breast cancer patients compared with the blood from controls, Dr. Heneghan and her co-investigators identified two miRNAs that were significantly increased with breast cancer.  The two miRNAs together predicted breast cancer with a greater sensitivity than mammography.

One of the miRNAs, miR-195 was 12 times higher in those with breast cancer, and the other let-7a, was five times higher.  They both reverted to normal after the tumors were removed by surgery, suggesting this may not only be a tool for discovering breast cancer but also for monitoring of treatment.

The study was done on 148 patients.  Dr. Heneghan plans to continue the work, recruiting larger numbers of patients with different tumor types to investigate the possibility that the miRNAs could also predict the tumor type.

Very exciting line of research to follow.

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  • Kristine Ashcraft  On December 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    I wanted to bring this poster from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium to your attention – http://www.posters2view.com/sabcs09/viewp.php?nu=1077. The poster points out that although 90% of oncologists are familiar with CYP testing for tamoxifen, only 16% routinely discuss it with their patients, and 57% only order testing at the patient’s request. It is important that patient’s taking or considering tamoxifen are educated about the testing, and ask their physician about it.

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