A front-page article yesterday in the New York Times and other major newspapers reminded me that drug development and methods of medical treatment will be driven by the genomics of increasingly sub-divided patient populations. As reported by GenomeWeb, summarizing an article in Nature (Sept. 23, 2012), “members of the Cancer Genome Atlas presented a multifaceted genetic analysis of breast cancer, characterizing four main subtypes of the disease and uncovering shared molecular features between one of these subtypes and tumors from another part of the body.”
I won’t try to go into detail about their findings, but they were able to connect one particularly nasty form of “triple negative” breast cancer to ovarian cancer. Ironically, post-Myriad, “triple negative” basal-like breast cancer and ovarian cancers shared mutations and other alterations in genes such as BRCA1/2. This suggests that drugs like the platins that are useful to treat ovarian cancer, but are not generally used for breast cancer, might be efficacious to treat this new “subclass” of tumor.