TUSKEGEE, AL (WSFA) - A new method of detecting aggressive and often deadly subtypes of breast cancer in African-American women has been developed by a team led by Tuskegee University researchers.
Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer among American women and black women are more likely than white women to be diagnosed at later stages in life. They're also 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer after their initial diagnosis.
Dr. Clayton Yates, a Tuskegee professor and director of the university's Center for Biomedical Research, published the team's findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Traditionally, three biomarkers have been used to detect and identify subtypes of breast cancer but by adding a fourth biomarker, researchers hope to be able to more aggressively identify and treat the disease.
"As with any fight, you have to know your enemy. Imagine going into battle not knowing if you needed a BB gun, a shotgun, or a bazooka," Yates said. "With this additional testing option, physicians will be able to better define the enemy and develop a more precise treatment plan. This, in turn, promises to be more effective for the patient — not to mention safer and less expensive — in the long run."
By being able to better identify the types of breast cancer and take into account a patient's genetic makeup, researchers may be able to personalize therapy for each specific patient.
Through personalization, treatment could be targeted to specific subtypes of cancer doctors could "rely less on debilitating chemotherapy."
"Study after study proves that early detection is the key to long-term survival," Yates said. "Our new testing method shows significant promise as a prognostic marker for the most aggressive types of breast cancer," Yates added.
The next step in the research process is to gain FDA approval to conduct trial treatments with current breast cancer patients.