A new test that identifies seven distinct types of breast cancer which will offer new hope to women with the dreaded disease was suggested by scientists.
The tumour sample test could be available within two years and is expected to lead to more personalised treatments, News.com.au reported.
Identifying more biomarkers will help doctors tailor therapy plans that better suit their patients, avoiding over or under treatment.
Currently, just two proteins are routinely identified in breast cancer cells; one is the oestrogen receptor (ER) that makes a tumour hormone-sensitive, while the other is HER2, which is responsive to the breast cancer drug Herceptin.
Scientists funded by the Breast Cancer Campaign looked for signature biomarkers in 1073 tumour samples from the charity's tissue bank.
They found that 93 percent fitted perfectly into one of seven classes, while another seven percent had mixed characteristics and were harder to categorise.
Further verification of the seven cancer types was then made using another 28 tumour samples.
The seven classes are defined by different combinations and levels of 10 proteins found in breast cancer cells, including ER and HER2, but also others not currently tested, such as p53, cytokeratins, HER3 and HER4.
Each cancer type has a different effect on patient survival, according to the scientists.
Lead researcher Dr Andy Green, from the University of Nottingham, said with an increasing number of treatment options available for breast cancer patients, decision-making regarding the choice of the most appropriate treatment method is becoming increasingly complex.
The findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer.