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Catalan researchers shed light on treatment for metastatic breast cancer

Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology presents study at ASCO meeting in Chicago


05 June 2018 01:13 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Gene mutations are shared to a great extent in breast cancers that have spread, while very rarely are alterations exclusive to one single tumor, a study by Catalonia’s Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) has found. Therefore, the genomic landscape of metastatic cancers appears to be relatively stable.

According to Leticia de Mattos-Arruda, the oncologist who led the investigation, the findings could help fight cancer resistance—this is the ability of tumor cells to survive and grow despite anti-cancer therapies.

In metastasis, cancer cells break away from where they first formed (primary cancer), travel through the blood or the lymph system, and form new tumors (metastatic tumors) in different parts of the body. Metastatic cancer is also known as “stage 4” cancer.

A team of researchers examined 185 metastatic tumors from ten patients who died after breast cancer spread all throughout their bodies. They also studied primary tumors and liquids surrounding organs.

VHIO researchers worked together with a team from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. The study was presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago, bringing together more than 32,000 oncology professionals from around the world.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, and also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among female patients. In Catalonia, 4,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Improving steadily, the survival rate is currently at 85%.

Early detection in order to improve breast cancer outcome and survival remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control, says the World Health Organization.

Metastasis accounts for some 20% of breast cancers. There is no clear and effective treatment for these cases due to its complexity and the lack of knowledge among medical professionals.


  • A woman undergoing a mammogram (by Institut d'Assistència Sanitària)

  • A woman undergoing a mammogram (by Institut d'Assistència Sanitària)