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Open Access Minireview

Genetic heterogeneity in breast cancer: the road to personalized medicine?

Richard D Baird1 and Carlos Caldas12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Hills Road, Box 97, Cambridge CB4 3EJ, UK

2 Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Li KaShing Centre, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 0RE, UK

BMC Medicine 2013, 11:151  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-151

Published: 21 June 2013


More women die from breast cancer across the world today than from any other type of malignancy. The clinical course of breast cancer varies tremendously between patients. While some of this variability is explained by traditional clinico-pathological factors (including patient age, tumor stage, histological grade and estrogen receptor status), molecular profiling studies have defined breast cancer subtypes with distinct clinical outcomes. This mini-review considers recent studies which have used genomics technologies in an attempt to identify new biomarkers of prognosis and treatment response. These studies highlight the genetic heterogeneity that exists within breast cancers in space and time.

Breast cancer; Next-generation sequencing; Whole-genome sequencing; Molecular profiling; Personalized medicine; Heterogeneity