October 6, 2010

using a 31-gene profile to predict the occurrence of breast cancer metastasis

So I know it's been a while since I've posted, but the first month of senior year has been a little hellish. Turns out I don't know nearly enough biochemistry for molecular bio, or enough about random brain regions for my neuroscience seminar, but maybe it'll just motivate me to keep up with my genomics readings and blog posts.

This semester, I'm taking a class about the biopolitics of breast cancer. While the class itself is, by and large, one large women studies-fueled (don't even get me started...) debate, it has propelled me to look a little bit more into breast cancer in the US. I happened to stumble across an article on GenomeWeb that really sparked interest - there is now a way for patients diagnosed with breast cancer to find out the likelihood and time it would take for the cancer to metastasize, based on a 31-gene signature.

This time-to-an-event breast cancer gene panel can be seen as a totally new type of diagnostic paradigm, that essentially has the potential to alter clinical management of breast cancer. On one hand, if accurate, individuals affected by breast cancer can avoid drastic treatment options if this gene panel predicts a very low chance of metastasis. On the other, patients can seek earlier therapies if they find out there is a good chance of their cancer metastasizing. Of course, the accuracy of this method would have to be just about 100% - I can't even imagine the legal liability that would come along with this kind of technology. But the prospects of this type of test could completely revolutionize a breast cancer diagnosis. Maybe then I wouldn't have to hear about how mastectomies "objectify women" because of some silly conspiracy theory about male doctors trying to take over the world... but I digress - we all know how I feel about vassar college feminazis...

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