Foundation for targeted breast cancer therapy

Researchers from Avera Cancer Institute, USA, and Kiel University, Germany, published reference data to improve cancer diagnostics.


The better you know your enemy, the easier you can beat him. This is the goal of modern precision oncology. Drugs will be selected based on the tumors molecular profile – like a dissregulation of genes – to precisely target the tumor. A collaboration between the Avera Cancer Institute Center for Precision Oncology and the Institute for Clinical and Molecular Biology (IKMB) of Kiel University, Germany has identified such genes in breast cancer that present as suitable targets. The work has been published in the journal Oncotarget. „We have identified a set of genes suitable for personalized breast cancer therapy“ said first author of the study Michael Forster, IKMB. „The presented data will help to identify the best possible targeted therapies“, said Tobias Meissner Cancer Genomics Manager and Bioinformatician with the Avera Cancer Institute Center for Precision Oncology. „We are hopeful that in the future our breast cancer patients may benefit from these novel findings“, adds Professor Nicolai Maass, director of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital in Kiel.

The collaboration between the IKMB group Genetics and Bioinformcatis (head: Prof. Andre Franke) and the Avera Cancer Insittute Center for Precision Oncology is ongoing for three years now, with the focus to jointly improve cancer diagnostics. „This is the second publication from our collaborative effort“ says Michal Forster, IKMB. „This is a strategic collaboration to work on next generation sequencing data analysis to improve patient outcomes,” said Tobias Meissner, Avera Cancer Institute. “We specifically looked at RNA expression data from healthy breast tissue, which is compared to tumor tissue to find altered genes“. Based on this one can identify best possible targeted therapies.

New in this study is that researches also looked at gene expression from healthy breast tissue. The researches discovered „that especially samples with high fat contentent will yield false signals“ says Michael Fortster. „About three quarters of RNA overexpression, for which drugs are available are also expressed in healthy tissue“. In the presented research, the researchers identiefied altered genes that present targets for procesion oncology. The reference data will help to identify the „true“ alterations caused by the disease and allow to incorporate this knowledge when selection a personalized treatment plan. The method will also work in the case that a matched normal sample is not available – which is common in today’s clinical setting.

„This presents an important first step, to gather new information for the patients benefit“ emphasises Professor Norbert Arnold, head of the Oncological Lab at the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital and also head of Tumor Diagnostics at IKMB. „For the clinical treatment decision making process we now need to generate further knowledge. Therefore currently further clinical research projects based on our findings are now ongoing at the Woman’s Hospital in Kiel, that aim to generate new knowledge for the benefit of our patients.“ This research collaboration will also be ongoing in the US hospital group Avera. „Based upon the results of this initial collaboration, I look forward to incorporating current and future results into the design of clinical trials utilizing novel therapeutic strategies to treat multiple malignancies“ says Casey Williams, PharmD, Chief Scientific Officer, Experimental Therapeutics, of the Avera Cancer Institute.

Text: Kerstin Nees

Original publication

Michael Forster et al.: RNA based individualized drug selection in breast cancer patients without patient-matched normal tissue. Oncotarget 2018, published online August 17, 2018. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.25981


Scientific contact:

Michael Forster
Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology
phone: +49 431/500 15136

Dr. Tobias Meißner
Avera Cancer Institute Center for Precision Oncology
phone: +1 605/322-3894 

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