A new way to identify women at high risk of developing relapse of breast cancer

A“marker” to identify women who are at risk of a recurrence.


Christopher Mueller, a cancer scientist at Queen’s University, has discovered a way to identify women who are in danger of breast cancer recurrence and also offers the best possible treatments.

Mueller has discovered a key marker that will help recognize women with estrogen receptor-expressing cancer who are at increased risk of re-developing cancer.

Mueller explained, “Cancers need estrogen to grow. There are treatments available that specifically target the estrogen receptor such as tamoxifen, and there are drugs that prevent affected women from making estrogen.”

“This has been very effective in reducing the number of women who suffer a relapse of their cancer. However, in more than 20 percent of these patients, cancer does not respond to these treatments, and they suffer a recurrence of their disease. This group of women may represent the majority of deaths from breast cancer.”

With this discovery, Mueller expects that physicians can offer alternative therapies to reduce the risk of a relapse.

For this study, Mueller took Advantage of the CCTG tissue bank, which is a collection of tumors and blood from the different oncology clinical trials carried out across Canada and around the globe.

This represents a collection of patient material where meticulous records of a patient’s cancer journey have been recorded and where the effects of a wide variety of drugs are known. This study demonstrates the power of such material to answer essential questions beyond the scope of the original trial.

Mueller said, “This new research allows us to identify women with breast cancer who are at high risk of developing a relapse right from their initial diagnosis. This means they can be offered alternative therapies, many of which are already available, which may be able to reduce their risk of having a relapse.”

The research appeared in Clinical Epigenetics.