Press Release
Oct 1, 2022
Understanding breast cancer and biotechnology

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK accounting for 15% of all new cancer cases, with around 56,000 new cases every year. Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells within the breast grow in an uncontrolled manner, which in turn can form tumours. Every October, people all over the world are raising funds and awareness in support of those affected by breast cancer with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but how does biotechnology play a role in understanding more about the disease?

In order for healthcare professionals to treat cancer effectively, biotechnology companies need to understand as much as possible about the causes of cancer as well as the behaviour of cancerous tissue. Additional knowledge of the increases and decreases in growth rates will also improve the ability to find effective treatments for breast cancer.

Some of the ways in which biotechnology companies are making strides forward in understanding breast cancer are:

  • Gene profiling – some patients inherit a genetic defect that make them more susceptible to cancer. DNA sequencing and gene mapping were used to determine this fact. Gene profiling will allow the identification of specific alleles which increase the risk of developing cancer.
  • Cell culture – human cancer cells can be cultured outside of the human body and incubated, Scientists have identified that genes can be expressed differently in cancer cells.
  • Genome analysis – using microarrays to compare expression levels of genes and study genetic profile, assessing which genes are turned on or off in different conditions such as when cancer is present or absent.
  • Human Growth Hormone (hGH) – this hormone when secreted locally in the breast tissue plays a critical role in the development of breast cancer, increasing cell growth rates in a more invasive fashion.
    It’s this expansion of research and knowledge of human genetics that has allowed biotechnology companies to develop medicines and treatments against the disease. Oncologists are able to personalise treatment plans with information from the patients’ genetic codes, target DNA mutations and boost immune systems to attack cancer cells.

Current breast cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy – all having been used since the 1940s, increasing knowledge of targetable biomarkers will allow the biotechnology industry to develop new therapies for an even higher survival rate. 

In a recent article from Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, researchers from University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are reporting the identification of a metabolic signature that predicts outcomes and opens potential therapeutic targets. Susan Waltz, PhD was quoted: “We can use those metabolic pathways to understand how we might be able to better treat cancer patients so that they’re not more susceptible to breast cancer recurrence,” Waltz added. “It could be dietary, it could be different ways of treating patients compared to the toxic drugs that we give patients now.”

With an ever changing landscape in human genetics, how they develop and what humans are continually exposed to, it’s clear there will always be a need for biotechnology in the fight against all forms of cancer. 

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