Dr. Sam Aparicio of the Department of Molecular Oncology, in partnership with Dr. Marco Marra of the Genome Sciences Centre, has published the first complete genome sequence of a breast cancer. The article is featured on the front cover of this weeks issue of Nature, one of the world’s most prestigious science journals.
The study describes the use of next-generation DNA sequencing technology to identify all of the 32 gene mutations present in a metastatic breast cancer. The team then searched for the same mutations in the original breast tumour from nine years earlier; only five were present at high enough levels for them to have been present in every cell of the original tumour. Six other mutations were present in small subsets of the original tumour cells, confirming for the first time that there is considerable genetic heterogeneity even at the earliest stages of breast cancer. This finding highlights the need to target all breast tumour cells at an early stage of treatment, rather than treating the tumour as a single uniform mass.
Further details can be found in today’s press release from the BC Cancer Foundation. To date, the story has also been covered by the CBC, CTV, Global, Canada.com, Vancouver Sun, The Province, and MIT’s Technology Review.