BC Cancer Agency study maps evolution of breast cancer

1 December 2014

A new study led by BC Cancer Agency scientists Dr. Samuel Aparicio and Dr. Sohrab Shah represents a significant advance in our understanding of how complex cancers, such as breast cancer, evolve over time.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature, uses genomic sequencing in combination with a new computational model called PyClone to track which cells and mutations dominate as a cancer evolves.

PyClone was developed by Shah, whose work is supported by a 2011 MSFHR Scholar Award. Aparicio is the recently named winner of the 2014 Aubrey J. Tingle Prize.

The research will help inform better, more target treatment approaches by proving that cancers evolve and change over time and in response to drug therapies. Until now, the evolution of a patient’s cancer has been largely overlooked from a treatment perspective without a way to accurately analyze and measure the changing cell populations.

“We now have the ability to determine which individual cancer cells are the ‘resilient’ ones, which, if left untreated, will have the most impact on patient survival,” said Shah in a news release.

In addition to Shah and Aparicio, several other individuals with current or past connections to MSFHR contributed to this research:

  • Ali Bashashati (2008 Trainee)
  • Connie Eaves (2003 Research Unit Award)
  • Peter Eirew (2011 Trainee)
  • Carl Hansen (2007 Scholar)
  • David Huntsman (2002 Scholar, 2004 Research Unit Award, 2007 Senior Scholar)
  • Jaswinder Khattra (2007 Trainee)
  • Marco Marra (2001 Scholar, 2006 Senior Scholar)
  • Cydney Nielsen (2011 Trainee)