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Biggest Breast Cancer Breakthrough: Map Links Breast Cancer Cell Shape And Genes To Disease Outcomes

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A new study brings breast cancer research decades ahead with new discovery.

Cell Shape-Gene Network Can Predict Cancer Outcome

Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London took a closer look at cell shapes in millions of imaging scans of more than 300,000 breast cancer cells and information for about 28,000 genes. They discovered that the changes in cell shape, which can result from physical pressures on the tumor, are turned into changes in gene activity.

The researchers then mapped out this cell shape-gene network and used the map to analyze samples from breast cancer patients who participated in the Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium (METABRIC) Study. They found that the cell changes are actually connected to the clinical disease outcomes of the patients.

According to the study, the protein NF-kappaB holds a pivotal role in the cell shape-gene map and that it could be a driving force to the spread and growth of cancerous cells.

'Big Data' Led To Breast Cancer Breakthrough

"We used 'big data' approaches to carry out a complex analysis that would once have taken decades, in a matter of months," said Chris Bakal, one of the authors of the study.

Backed by Cancer Research UK, a British charity organization that raises funding for cancer research, the result of the study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Genome Research.

For Karen Vousden, the chief scientist of Cancer Research UK, the result of the study gives researchers a more comprehensive view of the disease. According to Vousden, the insights in the study could soon enable doctors to tell, based on the appearance of the cells alone, how aggressive a person's cancer is and how rapidly it's likely to spread, helping them decide on what's the best mode of treatment for the patient.

Breast Cancer Cases Worldwide

Breast cancer is the most pervasive form of cancer affecting women in every part of the world. This painful disease knows no race or ethnicity.

In 2012, almost 1.7 million new cases for breast cancer were diagnosed, representing at least 12 percent of all new cancers and 25 percent of all cancers in women.

The danger of developing breast cancer shoots up as a woman ages. The average age for breast cancer diagnosis is typically between 60 to 70 years old.

While it is most common in women, breast cancer can also affect men.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that around 220,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,000 in men annually, with 40,000 women and 400 men dying from it each year.

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