Researchers at University of Galway have made an important discovery which could help prevent recurring breast cancer.
The researchers have identified biomarkers which can help predict which breast cancer patients are more likely to suffer a recurrence of the disease, or die from it.
The project was led by Dr Matthew Davey, Professor Michael Kerin and Dr Nicola Miller at the University’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.
Dr. Davey explained, “The process of identifying which patients are more likely to have a recurrence has been a challenge.”
They set to determine whether microRNAs, molecules which affect cancer development, are capable helping to predict this.
Their study involved taking blood samples from 124 patients with breast cancer at five different timepoints during their cancer journey, and assessing their outcomes almost nine years later.
“We discovered that patients with an increased expression of a certain type of miRNA, called miR-145, are unlikely to have a recurrence of breast cancer,” Dr. Davey said.
“We showed that increased expression of this biomarker, which was measured in patients’ blood samples during chemotherapy, actually predicted their long-term oncological outcome.”
“We can predict those who are likely to suffer recurrence and also those who will be free of recurrence. Further studies into the clinical application of this biomarker are ongoing.”
“This study may also help identify breast cancer patients who could benefit from closer monitoring and additional therapies post-surgery or treatment.”
According to figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, over 3,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
While long-term outcomes have improved for patients with breast cancer, the most common cancer diagnosed in women, 20-30% of these patients will see their condition relapse at some point.
The findings of this research have been published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS).