MSFHR-supported study decodes genetics of deadliest breast cancer

4 April 2012

A new BC Cancer Agency study supported by MSFHR has identified the genetic composition of the deadliest form of breast cancer, opening the possibility of more effective targeted treatments.

The study, co-led by 2011 MSFHR Scholar Dr. Sohrab Shah, found that triple-negative breast cancer is not a single entity, as previously thought, but a complex disease marked by constant evolution and a broad range of mutations. By sequencing more than 100 triple-negative tumours, the researchers discovered significant genetic variation and highly variable responses to treatment among the cancers.

Triple-negative breast cancer has been treated previously as a single disease. The new findings suggest personalized therapy based on a tumour’s individual genetic features is critical to optimizing treatment.

“Our study shows that insights from mathematical and computational models of evolution in cancer patients, informed by precise genetic measurements will be required for future translational research in cancer,” said Dr. Shah.

Triple-negative breast cancer is defined by the absence of three cancer-causing proteins and accounts for 25 per cent of breast cancer deaths.

Fourteen past or current MSFHR-supported researchers participated in the study, published online today by the journal Nature.

  • Dr. Samuel Aparicio
    Member, Model Systems and Cancer Therapeutics (2007 Research Unit Award)
    Former Research Advisory Council member
  • Dr. Ali Bashashati
    2008 Trainee (Post-Doctoral Fellowship)
  • Dr. Connie Eaves
    Leader, Terry Fox Laboratory (2003 Research Unit Award)
  • Dr. Karen Gelmon
    Member, PC-TRIADD (2004 Research Unit Award)
  • Dr. Malachi Griffith
    2006 Trainee (Senior Graduate Studentship)
    2004 Trainee (Junior Graduate Studentship)
  • Dr. David Huntsman
    2007 Senior Scholar
    Member, BC BioLibrary (2007 Technology Methodology Platform Award)
    Member, OvCaRe (2007 Research Unit Award)
    Member, Model Systems and Cancer Therapeutics (2007 Research Unit Award)
    Member, PC-TRIADD (2004 Research Unit Award)
    Leader, Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre (2004 Research Unit Award)
    2002 Scholar
  • Dr. Steven Jones
    2008 Senior Scholar
    2003 Scholar
  • Dr. Jaswinder Khattra
    2007 Trainee (Senior Graduate Studentship)
  • Dr. Marco Marra
    Member, Model Systems and Cancer Therapeutics (2007 Research Unit Award)
    2006 Senior Scholar
    Member, Cancer Control Research Unit (2003 Research Unit Award)
    2001 Scholar
  • Dr. Gregg Morin
    Leader, BC Proteomics Network (2007 Technology Methodology Platform)
  • Dr. Leah Prentice
    2007 Trainee (Senior Graduate Studentship)
    2005 Trainee (Junior Graduate Studentship)
  • Dr. Sohrab Shah
    Research Advisory Council member
    2011 Scholar
    2008 Trainee (Post-Doctoral Fellowship)
    2006 Trainee (Senior Graduate Studentship)
  • Dr. Wyeth Wasserman
    2004 Scholar
  • Dr. Peter Watson
    Leader, BC BioLibrary (2007 Technology Methodology Platform Award)