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Differences in male breast cancer a step toward more tailored treatment

April 12th, 2017

Breast cancer is not only an old women’s disease. In fact, it’s not even a women-only disease. Men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too.

Male breast cancer is very rare and accounts for less than one per cent of breast cancer cases.

The challenges with male breast cancer

Research over the past few decades has revealed breast cancer to be a much more complicated disease than once thought, made up of many sub-types of tumours all of which respond to treatment differently.

There hasn’t been a lot known about male breast cancer because it is so rare and it’s hard to find enough men to participate in scientific studies. Without specific information to inform tailored treatment decisions, men are typically treated the same as a woman with the most common type of breast cancer.

New research on male breast cancer

A recent study – one of the largest ever conducted into male breast cancer – involved the analysis of more than 700 cases of the disease in an attempt to identify differences between male and female breast cancer.

The researchers compared the expression levels of several proteins in samples collected from male and female breast cancer patients and found a pattern that could lead to better treatments.

Two key proteins were identified as being highly expressed in male breast cancer – these proteins will be an important identifier for male disease, but the researchers also found they indicate a poorer likelihood of survival.

Hope for better treatment in the future

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, which provided the male tissue samples for the study, said: “These important findings could now enable researchers to identify whether certain male breast cancer patients might benefit from more extensive treatment.

“It’s so important that we continue to investigate how male and female breast cancers differ biologically, to ensure all patients receive the most appropriate treatment and are given the best chance of survival.

“Finding out whether existing drugs could target the proteins identified in this study could open up the possibility of improving treatment for some aggressive male breast cancers.”