Metastasis– when breast cancer cells leave the breast and spread to other sites in the body– is the major cause of mortality from breast cancer. In collaboration with oncologists, physician scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, BCRF investigators Peter Kuhn, Larry Norton and Elizabeth Comen analyzed over 400 patients with a history of metastatic disease. The research team evaluated the different places in the body that breast cancer spreads over time and created a unique map of tumor spread.
Commenting on the study published in npj Breast Cancer, Dr. Comen noted that the aim is to use the “metastasis map” as a springboard for understanding and predicting whether breast cancer will spread in a given patient. “We hope that by elucidating patterns of metastatic disease, we are better able to develop novel techniques to stop breast cancer in its tracks,” she said.
Dr. Kuhn added that the novelty of the work is in utilizing clinical observations from actual patients to forecast cancer spread with fluid biopsy technology. “These are the necessary ingredients in truly understanding what happens in each patient,” he explained. “We can now use this concept to create a beautiful motion picture of each patient. The clearer this picture, the better our ability to improve patient outcomes.”