In what is being dubbed a "landmark" discovery, scientists have concluded that breast cancer is not a single disease, but rather should be thought of as 10 distinct diseases.
A study, published in the latest edition of Nature, examined breast cancer samples from 2,000 women in the United Kingdom and Canada. The research is considered the largest global gene study of breast cancer tissue ever performed, according to WebMD.
"Based on our results, we've reclassified breast cancer into 10 types - making breast cancer an umbrella term for an even greater number of diseases," study co-leader Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute and the Department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge, said in the press release. "Essentially, we've moved from knowing what a breast tumor looks like under a microscope to pinpointing its molecular anatomy — and eventually, we'll know which drugs it will respond to."
Because hospitals often cast a wide net of tests and don't break down the kind of breast cancer further than their broad categorizations, researchers said treatments might not be as specialized as they could be.