WASHINGTON — A new study found marked molecular similarities between breast and ovarian cancer which scientists said could help lead to new treatments for hard-to-treat forms of breast cancer.
The study, which was published online Sunday in the British journal Nature, uncovered pronounced genomic similarities between the basal-like subtype breast cancer and serous ovarian cancer, and as well as similarities in the types and frequency of genetic mutations.
The research found that the two ailments share genomic features that could aid in finding future treatments breast cancer -- the leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
"The molecular similarity of one of the principal subtypes of breast cancer to that found in ovarian cancer gives us additional leverage to compare treatments and outcomes across these two cancers," said Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which provided some of the funding for the study.
"This treasure trove of genetic information will need to be examined in great detail to identify how we can use it functionally and clinically," Varmus said.
The research used data generated as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a comprehensive study that catalogued the cancer information from 825 breast cancer patients.
Researchers said findings that the two cancers are of similar molecular origin could help narrow down potential future therapies for related subtypes of breast and ovarian cancers.
"TCGA's comprehensive characterization... allows researchers an unprecedented look at these breast cancer subgroups," said Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, which also supported the study.
Another scientific agency which played a part in study was similarly upbeat about the findings.
"The data generated by the TCGA program comprise a vast resource that investigators will be analyzing for years to come," Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
The resource of information about breast cancer genomes will undoubtedly fuel myriad discoveries by the cancer research community," said Green.
The World Health Organization said there are some 1.3 million new cases of breast cancer each year, as well as about 450,000 deaths annually from the disease, which is the most common cancer among women.