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WashU Sequencing Breast Cancer Tumors to Determine Genomic Profile of Aromatase Inhibitor Response

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This story was originally published March 29.

Researchers at the Genome Center at Washington University are sequencing the genomes of 50 advanced breast cancer tumors to develop genomic profiles that could predict their response to chemotherapy, the American College of Surgeons said last week.

The study is part of an ongoing clinical trial conducted by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group. The trial involves more than 300 postmenopausal women with estrogen-positive stage II or II breast cancer at the time of diagnosis who are receiving one of three aromatase inhibitors prior to surgery and further chemotherapy.

The goal of the sequencing study is to determine genomic profiles that can predict response or resistance to aromatase inhibitors, a class of chemotherapeutic agents that block the production of estrogen. This information could be used "as a decision point for the treating oncologist," for example whether to surgically remove the tumor or the entire breast, said Elaine Mardis, co-director of the Genome Center at Wash U and chair of the ACOSOG Basic and Translational Science Committee, in a statement.

At the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities conference last week, Mardis said that she and her colleagues are planning to sequence the genomes of 25 hormone-responsive and 25 hormone-unresponsive tumors for the ACOSOG trial and have so far completed 41 tumor sequences. They are currently analyzing the data to generate the genomic profiles.

Starting as early as this fall, Mardis and colleagues plan to test these genomic signatures, both in the current clinical trial and in a new trial, according to ACOS, to determine how well they predict response to aromatase inhibitors. In addition, they are considering similar studies for colorectal cancer and maybe lung cancer.

"Only time will tell whether we have to use the entire genome to make predictions about a patient's aromatase inhibitor profile or whether we can get away with a focused, gene-by-gene approach," Mardis said in the ACOS statement.

The Wash U Genome Center has been involved in a number of other cancer sequencing studies, including the Cancer Genome Atlas, an acute myelogenous leukemia genomics program, and a pediatric cancer genome project, using the Illumina sequencing platform.

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