A new study has found that tumor cell activity in women differs according to age, leading to a poorer prognosis of breast cancer in younger women.
Breast cancer tends to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment in women under 50 as compared to older women, and the study may lead to targeted therapies that can help treat patients more effectively.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Carey Anders at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
As part of the study, researchers gathered information specific to premenopausal women by diagnosing more than 200,000 women with breast cancer in 2006, out of which about 22 percent were under the age of 50.
Researchers found that the tumors found in women under the age of 45 have certain patterns of cellular activity that confer a poorer prognosis in younger women, while the same tumor cell activity in older women confers a better prognosis, demonstrating the need for age-appropriate targeted therapies.
"During the process by which cells change and become cancerous, we saw certain patterns in young women's tumors that we didn't see in the tumors found in women over the age of 45," Anders said.
"If we are able to inhibit these processes by using drugs, some of which are already available and being used to treat other cancers, we might have a better chance at treating these women more effectively and possibly even curing them," Anders added.
Research is currently under way to determine what therapies might be effective in targeting the cellular activity in young women's tumors, with the hope of shutting it down and halting tumor growth.
The findings of the study were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.