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Study by NH researchers could produce advances in breast cancer treatment

Union Leader Correspondent

April 03. 2014 10:39PM

Gregory Tsongalis is director of molecular pathology at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon. (Courtesy)

LEBANON — A new study by the Norris Cotton Cancer Center says cancer drugs developed for other forms of the disease could be used to successfully treat breast cancer.

Personalized Therapy for Breast Cancer was recently published online by Clinical Genetics. The study out of the Department of Pathology and the Department of Hematology-Oncology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, was conducted by researchers Francine B. De Abreu, Gary N. Schwartz, Wendy A. Wells and Gregory J. Tsongalis.

The year-long study focused on advancements in treating the different types of non-hereditary breast cancers and how that practice could be furthered, said Tsongalis, director of molecular pathology at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

“Not all breast cancer is the same disease,” he said. “As far as breast cancer goes, we know that there are at least five different subsets of the same disease.”

About 15 years ago doctors discovered that different types of breast cancers reacted differently to different treatments, Tsongalis said. Since then, the genetic makeup of breast cancer tumors have been used to tailor treatments for patients that would bring about the best possible outcome for that specific type of breast cancer.

“The different subtypes of breast cancer are distinguished by the different molecular defects in the tumor cells,” Tsongalis said.

In conducting the study, the researchers discovered that some of the subtypes have the same genetic defects that other cancers — such as melanoma or lung cancer — have, so drugs already developed for these different types of cancers could be used to successfully treat breast cancer patients, he said.

“The study looks into not only what is currently being done, but what some of the new markers are in these subtypes that can be targeted by these therapies,” Tsongalis said.

Tsongalis said he hopes the study furthers advancements in the treatment of breast cancer.

“It points out that it may be time to look at some of these drugs for breast cancer treatment as well,” he said.

The study is already attracting attention from some patients that have contacted the center asking about the possibility of these new proposed treatments and/or clinical trials, he said.

“I think (the study) brings that level of awareness to some of our oncologists and health care providers here and to some of our patients,” Tsongalis said.

Health Hanover Lebanon

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