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Scientists develop test to determine deadliness of breast cancer


Scientists in London have developed an ecological imaging test to help doctors determine which breast cancers are most likely to be deadly, Fox News reports.

This imaging could help doctors decide the individuals' treatment more effectively.

In a study published Tuesday in PLOS medicine, scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who developed the combined test, used the index to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells in tumors.

The institute helped fund the research, according to the release.

The Ecosystem Diversity Index combines a cancer imaging technique and methods used by ecologists to study animal and plant species.

For the study, the authors studied 1,026 samples of untreated breast tumors from three hospitals and analyzed three cell types: cancer cells; immune system lymphocytes; and stromal cells, which produce connective tissue.

"We have known for a while that genetic diversity between cancer cells in tumors is associated with more aggressive disease, and our new results also show that diversity of cells within the tumor microenvironment also contributes to aggressive breast cancer," Dr. Rachael Natrajan, team leader in the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said in the release.

"Integration of our new measure with genetic alterations can actually provide additional prognostic information from just genetics alone, and may pave the way for a new wave of diagnostic biomarkers."

According to the press release, the study is the first time scientists took into consideration both genetics and cell types around a tumor to predict an individual's survival rate.

"In the future, we hope that by combining cell diversity scores with other factors that influence cancer survival, such as genetics and tumor size, we will be able to tell apart patients with more or less aggressive disease so we can identify those who might need different types of treatment," lead study author Dr. Yinyin Yuan, team leader in the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at The Institute of Cancer Research, said in the release.

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