Breast cancer isn't a single disease but an umbrella term for 10 genetically distinct diseases, according to the biggest-ever study of the genetics of breast tumors. The researchers, who split the disease into 10 categories after examining samples from 2,000 tumors, say the study offers a "completely new way of looking at breast cancer" that will allow much more precisely targeted therapies for sufferers in the future, the BBC reports.
The researchers compared breast cancer to a map of the world, saying that while current tests split the disease into continents, the new research will allow hospitals to split it into counties. "Essentially we've moved from knowing what a breast tumor looks like under a microscope to pinpointing its molecular anatomy—and eventually we'll know which drugs it will respond to," the lead researcher says. "This research won't affect women diagnosed with breast cancer today. But in the future, breast cancer patients will receive treatment targeted to the genetic fingerprint of their tumor." The BBC notes that could happen in as little as three years.