October 8, 2009
(CBS News) Researchers in Canada have made what's being called a breakthrough discovery in the fight against breast cancer.
They've unraveled the mysteries of how breast cancer begins and what makes it spread. Canadian scientists have exposed exactly what's inside a breast cancer tumor.
By figuring out all three billion letters in the tumor's DNA sequence,
they've zeroed in on cell mutations, shedding light on how the disease
develops and spreads.
The study marks such an important turning point in the fight against cancer, it's landed on this week's cover of the Journal Nature.
The Canadian team mapped the genetic make-up of a breast cancer patient's original tumor, and compared it to the same patient's tumor that spread nine years later. They saw exactly how the cancer evolved by identifying each cell mutation.
This year alone more than 190,000 women here in the United States are expected to get a breast cancer diagnosis. Doctors say this study could have huge implications for the development of new drugs.
So far researchers have only sequenced the genes in one patient's tumor. But new technology allowed them to do it in just a few weeks, so they hope to start decoding tumors on a more routine basis, creating a data base for all types of breast cancers.
Not only do scientists hope to tackle breast cancer in this way, they're also setting their sights on decoding the tumors of other cancers.