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Gene 'Switches' Could Predict When Breast Cancers Will Spread To The Brain: Study

Update Date: Nov 05, 2014 02:46 PM EST

Researchers have found a pattern of genetic 'switches' - chemical marks that turn genes on or off - that are linked to breast cancer's spread to the brain, according to a new research. 

Researchers studied 24 breast cancers that had spread to the brain, including samples from the original breast tumor and found a handful of genes with faulty switches. 

Researchers noted that two of the genetic switches became faulty early on in the development of breast cancer, hinting that they may be an early warning signal for tumors that will spread to brain. 

 "Each year the number of women whose breast cancer spreads to the brain is increasing. While we know many of the genetic changes behind breast cancer, we know very little about why the disease can spread to the brain," said study author Dr Mark Morris, based at the University of Wolverhampton, in the press release.

"By identifying the genes that are switched off or on in breast cancers before they spread to the brain we hope to be able to develop a blood test to spot this change. There's also potential for our findings to be used as a starting point to develop treatments that might prevent the spread."

Every year almost 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and around 12,000 die from it. 

The findings were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference. 

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