Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Canadian Breakthrough in Breast Cancer.

Researchers with the B.C. Cancer Agency have become the first-ever to decode the DNA of breast cancer cells, and have discovered that gene mutations in those tumours shift as the disease spreads.

These findings were presented in the Nature journal, and chart the genetic mutations that occurred in the 3 billion letters of the DNA sequence from an estrogen-receptor-alpha-positive breast tumour. It has been said that this discovery will provide unprecedented understanding about how breast cancer progresses.

Chair of breast cancer research at the BC Cancer Agency and Canada research chair in molecular oncology, Dr. Samuel Aparicio said of the results:

“I never thought I would see it in my lifetime”


This study also represents great progress in human genome research:

As recently as 20 years ago, researchers were estimating that decoding a single human genome would require 10 years of work and cost $3 billion. Now that they have worked out the technology, the researchers say they are deciphering several genomes each week.

The team are now building a genomic map of breast cancer based on 2,000 cancers and are also focusing on sequencing the genomes of so-called “triple negative” breast cancers, which are known to be highly aggressive and for which there are limited treatments than for other types of the disease.

h/t to CatM for a more thorough explanation:

The reason triple negative cancer is so deadly is because it does not express some of the common proteins that current targeted treatments work to suppress, like HER2, and hormones like estrogen, and progesterone.

These hormones are all involved in encouraging tumor growth, so suppressing them can help eradicate the tumors. But they have not yet identified what triple negative breast cancer’s Achilles heel might be. Maybe this study will help them find new targets.

Identifying the genome is helpful because it will also help them identify which women are at greater risk for recurrence, poor prognosis, etc.


  1. Both her mother and her grandmother contracted breast cancer. Both survive, but at the cost of major surgery and years of chemo and radiotherapy.

    Given her genetic legacy, breast cancer is the biggest fear for my 16 year old daughter’s life, so thanks so much for this cheering news, CG.

    I’ve known so many women suffer from breast cancer, more than any other disease by several times. I lost a friend in her 30s, my agent in her 40s, and my aunt in her 50s, all to breast cancer.

    But more than anything I worry for my daughter.  

  2. HappyinVT

    My mother died of breast cancer 26 years ago next month.  My two sisters are now older than she was when she died.

    I’ll never forget what she went through with the chemo and radiation.  I hope we get to a day soon when no man or woman suffers from this terrible disease.

  3. This is not only good news in general, but a reminder that Socialized Medicine (even in all caps: SOCIALIZED MEDICINE) does not completely stifle innovation (one of my more nagging concerns).  There is a lot of medical research that comes out of Canada.  While it may be my subconscious bias after living there, I seem to see the work “Canada” in articles about medical research more often than the “10% of US population” thing would suggest.

    Good going, you damn socialists!

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