Breast cancer is a collection of related diseases with different genetic profiles rather than a single condition, according to researchers.
DNA from 24 breast tumours were studied in detail by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire, who identified striking diversity between them.
Tumours from some patients had relatively undisturbed “genomes” or genetic codes, while others had fractured and reassembled DNA which had sections copied, deleted or moved around.
Study leader Mike Stratton said: “We have looked at the level of the DNA sequence at just how splintered and reorganised the genome is in many breast cancers. We were, frankly, astounded at the number and complexity of rearrangements in some cancers.
“Just as important, the genomes were different from each other, with multiple distinctive patterns of rearrangement observed, supporting the view that breast cancer is not one, but several diseases.’
Using the most up-to-date DNA sequencing technology enabled the researchers to create ‘maps’ of genome rearrangements in the samples with the major sub-types of breast cancer. Their findings were published in science journal Nature.