It’s not news any cancer patient really wants to hear. Cancer geneticist Christina Curtis, PhD, and postdoctoral researcher Zheng Hu, PhD, have found that in breast and lung cancer patients with metastatic disease, the seeds of metastasis were often planted well before the primary tumor was diagnosed.
What’s more, treatments given to prevent recurrence after the primary tumor is removed — a category of therapy called adjuvant treatments that includes chemotherapy, hormone and targeted drug therapies — can end up promoting the growth of drug-resistant cells in the distant metastases.
Curtis and Hu published their results recently in Nature Genetics. The findings dovetail with their previous discovery that most colorectal cancers have metastasized before diagnosis. But although it may sound grim, the researchers emphasize that it’s important to understand how cancers evolve in the body in order to develop new treatments to better combat recurrence.