Breast cancer cells spread in an already-armed mob | Science News

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Breast cancer cells spread in an already-armed mob

Most tumor-driving mutations are carried from original malignancy, study suggests

By
5:09pm, May 10, 2017
cluster of tumor cells

ON THE ROAD  Breast cancer cells may break away from the main tumor in clumps, already bearing most of the mutations that will drive cancer recurrence, a study suggests. Shown here is a cluster of circulating tumor cells (red) from a patient with breast cancer.

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. — When breast cancer spreads, it moves in gangs of ready-to-rumble tumor cells, a small genetic study suggests. Most of the mutations that drive recurrent tumors when they pop up elsewhere in the body were present in the original tumor, geneticist Elaine Mardis reported May 9 at the Biology of Genomes meeting.

For many types of cancer, it is the spread, or metastasis, of tumor cells that kills people. Because cancer that comes back and spreads after initial treatment is often deadlier than the original tumors, researchers thought most of the mutations in recurrent tumors happened after they spread. But the new findings contradict this assumption and may indicate ways to stop metastasis.

Mardis, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues collected recurrent breast tumors from 16 women who died after their cancer had

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