Is Breast Cancer Linked To Ovarian Cancer?

Breast cancer subtype shares genetic characteristics with ovarian cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) New research into the genetic make-up of breast cancer has confirmed some things about the disease and offered intriguing new insights – and opportunities. This knowledge could well lead to new drug therapies.

A fast-growing type of breast cancer known as "Basal-like" (more commonly called triple-negative) – seems to have the same molecules as an aggressive form of ovarian cancer labeled "high-grade serous".

This could mean that therapies for these cancers could be interchanged.

"Ask your doctor about genetic testing."

This is the latest progress coming out of the The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Researchers examined tumor samples from 825 patients.

“Through the use of multiple different technologies, we were able to collect the most complete picture of breast cancer diversity ever,” said Charles Perou, PhD, professor of molecular oncology and a member of University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a press release.

“These studies have important implications for all breast cancer patients and confirm a large number of our previous findings,” said Dr. Perou who was the study’s corresponding author.

Scientists at the TCGA Research Network confirmed that there are four main subtypes of breast cancer: HER2-enriched (HER2E), Luminal A (LumA), Luminal B (LumB) and Basal-like. Scientists have thought these were the major types.

This study uncovered that triple-negative breast cancers have the same types of genetic mutations as seen in serous ovarian cancer.

These two difficult-to-treat cancers may respond well to medications that block blood vessel growth so the tumor doesn’t have any food supply. 

The scientists also found likely genetic mutations involved in the most common type of breast cancer – estrogen-receptor positive Luminal A.

dailyRx News talked to Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It is likely that this new, more detailed knowledge of genetic alteration in breast cancer will lead us to novel targets for therapy.”

This research was published September 23 in Nature.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the U.S. Department of Defense through the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

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Review Date: 
September 24, 2012
Last Updated:
September 24, 2012