A team of researchers at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has found the “key” to very aggressive breast cancers. This could lead to early detection of tumours via a simple blood test, and treatments adapted to the type of tumour, Le Soir reported on Thursday. The discovery by Professor Cédric Blanpain’s team was published in the prestigious scientific revue “Nature”.
By analysing the stages that come before a tumour forms, Belgian researchers found that the oncogene – a gene that can cause the formation of cancers – PIK3CA reactivates a multipotent differentiation program in adult stem cells. This resembles the embryonic stage of the cell, Le Soir says. The affected cells are completely reprogrammed. The researchers have identified the molecular signatures of cell identity changes, which are associated with the cell that causes cancer. “Depending on the type of signature, we can make a different clinical prognosis. We can create sub-categories of tumours that appear similar according to current classifications. However, they behave very differently depending on the type of cell they originally came from. That means we have to treat them differently medically”, Professor Blanpain explains.
The researchers say these discoveries are essential to improving our understanding of the mechanisms behind breast cancers. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, affecting one in seven women.