Top Health Stories of 2012: Breast Cancer Research Reveals New Methods of Treatment

The Dr. Oz Show medical staff chose the top most innovative, interesting and influential health headlines of 2012. Each day until the new year, we’ll round up and revisit the major headlines that had a profound effect on science, medicine and your health over the last 12 months.

Headline #3: Genetic Study Reveals Four Main Types of Breast Cancer, Suggests New Treatments

Breast cancer is one of the most common killers of women. About 1 in 8 women is expected to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer in her lifetime. And 70% of women who have breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors. In 2011, 230,480 women and2,140 men were estimated to have received a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer in the US. Any medical breakthrough that helps us to better understand and treat this deadly disease is vital

This year, researchers from the Cancer Genome Atlas Network revealed research that may change the face of cancer treatment forever. After analyzing tumors from 825 breast cancer patients, they were able to paint a clearer genetic picture of the different types of breast cancers that affect women.

The four types of cancer are:

  • Basal-like Breast Cancer: This especially deadly type of cancer is rarer than the other types. This type of cancer resembles some forms of ovarian cancer and some lung cancers and may respond to similar treatments, like PARP inhibitors, designed to treat ovarian tumors.
  • Luminal A Breast Cancer: Unlike basal cancers, this type of tumor is sensitive to estrogen and may respond to hormone blockers better than the other types.
  • Luminal B Breast Cancer: Like Luminal A, it, too, is sensitive to hormone blockers but tends to be more resistant. This type may respond better to a combination of hormonal therapy and chemotherapy.
  • HER2-Enriched Breast Cancer: This type of cancer tends to derive its growth from making too much HER2, a protein that drives the growth of cancer cells. An HER2-blocker drug, like Herceptin, may be pivotal for its treatment.

If we know exactly what genetic changes occur in the development of breast cancer, doctors will be able to prescribe more accurate treatments to eliminate existing cancer and prevent any recurrences.

Read More of 2012’s Top Health Stories: