Genetic data can improve breast cancer care for underserved populations

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A study comparing DNA and RNA data from Nigerian breast cancer patients to patients in a United States database found that certain aggressive molecular features were far more prevalent in tumors from Nigerian women than in black or white American women.In a study in Nature Communications, the authors say those differences in multiple molecular features could in part explain disparities in breast cancer mortality for women from Nigeria, and perhaps other West African nations.
“In the era of precision medicine, our data provide insights that could reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer across sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world,” said study author Olufunmilayo Olopade, the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics.

“Without data, we make wrong policies,” she added. “Understanding the molecular mechanisms that trigger lethal breast cancers is the most fundamental question remaining in breast cancer research, and is a crucial first step toward intervention.”
The study compares genomic data from 1,037 U.S. patients, provided by The Cancer Genome Atlas, to genomic data from 194 Nigerian women with breast cancer. The researchers found multiple, often unexpected, genetic differences between the racial and ethnic groups.
Although the Nigerian patients in the study were much younger, on average, they had more advanced disease at diagnosis and higher mortality rates than women from the TCGA group, most of whom were of European heritage. Breast cancer rates are increasing in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa at an alarming pace without the necessary infrastructure to stem the epidemic.
In a transnational collaboration to establish a platform for translational breast cancer research in Africa, researchers from the University of Chicago, Novartis Biomedical Research Institute, University of Ibadan and Lagos State University identified 25 different genes from Nigerian patients that were significantly mutated but potentially treatable with novel therapies in clinical trials.
Aggressive features found in these women include the …

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