Breast cancer
A landmark breast cancer finding could revolutionise treatment options. Reuters

A groundbreaking breast cancer finding could revolutionise future treatment options as it divides the condition into ten distinct types.

Traditionally, breast cancer was thought of as a single condition having only three or four varieties. However, after thorough research examining the genetic make-up of 2,000 tumours, scientists have found that instead of one disease, breast cancer can be segregated into at least ten separate diseases.

Researchers now believe that this categorisation, along with identification of new breast cancer genes, could provide better treatment options in the future.

The discovery of new genes could also help scientists to find out how gene faults cause the cancer to develop and lead to the creation of new types of drugs.

The new research is the largest genetic study of breast cancer tissue that has been conducted till date.

One of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, breast cancer accounts for around 31 per cent of all cases in women.

According to Cancer Research UK, up to 11,728 people in the UK died from breast cancer in 2009. A major factor in breast cancer treatment is unnecessary treatment with toxic drugs as doctors are unable to determine which patients will respond best to which drugs.

"We are over-treating a significant number of women. We are not doing that because we are evil, we over-treat them because we just cannot precisely define the ones who are going to benefit," the Telegraph quoted Prof Carlos Caldas, who led the study, as saying. "If we could identify sub groups where they have such good outcomes that we could spare them treatments instead of adding more and more toxic treatments that would have enormous value for women," he said.

The researchers mentioned that although current patients will not benefit from the new study immediately, they may be comforted by the promise it holds for their daughters and granddaughters after further research into each cancer sub type is carried out.

They also indicated that although more research would be needed, the new development helped scientists to understand why some women with breast cancer have a much better prognosis than others.