A new test could help differentiate between an aggressive form of breast cancer in the milk ducts, which is likely to need radiotherapy treatment, and one which is less fierce.
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The simple test could mean those women with the less aggressive cancer would not have to undergo radiotherapy after surgery, as their cancer would be unlikely to return.
Researchers compared the unique features of ductal carcinoma in situ cancer cells and discovered common traits in cells from the most aggressive form of the disease.
The study, which was part funded by Cancer Research UK, found women whose cells showed the aggressive characteristics were 40% more likely to have a cancer that came back than the rest of the women studied.
Study author Professor Sarah Pinder, based at King’s College London, said: “Screening is incredibly effective at identifying DCIS but we don’t have a reliable system to identify which cancers are likely to be aggressive and need further treatment.
“We believe that our test will help identify a group of women who are at a much greater risk of the disease returning after surgery. We need to confirm this in larger studies but it’s reasonable to suggest that this group of women should have the disease completely removed and receive radiotherapy to help prevent the disease returning.”
The research was published in the British Journal of Cancer, but was not available on its website.