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Recptors in Breast Cancer: April 7, 2011

As researchers continue to focus on genes in their search for breast cancer treatment, there's one genetic marker that could help those with aggressive breast cancer. "When we obtain the tissue from breast cancer cells or the breast cancer tissue, we look at the cells and if there are receptors," says Lee Memorial Health System surgeon, Dr. Eric Goldsmith.

These estrogen receptors could determine how aggressive a cancer could become. "We know on the outside of the cell, if you can imagine it, there's all sorts of almost like antennae, if you want to picture them, sticking up, waiting to get signals and tell them what to do."

Patients with positive receptors tend to respond positively to treatments, depending on their individual situation. "For example, those patients who are positive, we can use things like oral chemotherapy: tamoxifen, evista, those sorts of medications."

Then there are women who have negative receptors. This is where cancer treatment may be a bit more involved. That's when surgeons and oncologists will look at the varius factors when determining the best treatment. "Esterogen receptors. Progresterone receptors. Her 2/neu, FISH, there's a whole bunch of things that we look at and then we put it all together to decide what's the best therapy, what your prognosis is going to be."

Since 2001, the number of people dying from breast cancer has continued to decline due in part to therapies guided by receptor status.