Evaluating the characteristics of a breast cancer -- hormone-receptor status and HER2 status, for example -- helps doctors figure out which breast cancer treatments make the most sense for a specific person.
Research has shown that each breast cancer characteristic listed in the pathology report has one or more variations, called subtypes. A study evaluated a test that uses new technology to identify all a breast cancer's subtypes. The new technology, subtype classification model (SCM), was more reliable than methods that tested for single breast cancer subtypes (called single sample predictor or SSP).
Right now, doctors usually don't use breast cancer subtype analysis to help make treatment decisions because there aren't specific treatments available for different subtypes. For example, HER2-positive breast cancers can be treated with the targeted therapies Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) and Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib). Even though there are several subtypes of HER2-positive breast cancer, there are currently no treatment options or approaches that have been shown to work on breast cancers with a specific HER2 subtype.
Still, having a way to quickly and accurately determine breast cancer subtypes can help researchers as they work to develop new treatments. Much more research is needed before tests that determine breast cancer subtypes will be used routinely to develop highly individualized breast cancer treatment plans based on subtype.
Stay tuned to Breastcancer.org's Research News to learn more about lab research that may lead to better ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer.