Researchers Use New Techniques For Mapping Cancer Cells

04.15.10 | FL News Team

A research team has found breast tumors that killed a 44-year-old American woman with "triple negative" cancer had 50 separate mutations, 20 of which helped them spread. The team, led by Rick Wilson at Washington University in St. Louis, established new techniques for sequencing the entire genetic map of cells and that help them figure out the changes needed for cancer to spread and kill. The findings may lead to new tests and new treatments for cancer. The researchers studied four DNA samples from the woman who died when her "triple negative" cancer spread to her brain. Wilson said, quote, "We've learned some significant lessons about cancer from sequencing the genomes of individual patients and their tumors, but it's clearly just the tip of the iceberg."

 The samples showed that cancer is just as complex as experts had predicted it would be and show that designing drugs to target one or two mutations is unlikely to be useful. The research is reported in the journal, "Nature."

 The patient, the first African-American woman to have her entire genome sequenced, had undergone chemotherapy and radiation, but the tumors spread anyway. She died within a year of being diagnosed. Researchers found 20 mutations that were not common in the early, primary tumors but very common in tumors that popped up outside the breast.