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At last: classification of human mammary cells elucidates breast cancer origins

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Current breast cancer classification systems are based on molecular evaluation of tumor receptor status and do not account for distinct morphological phenotypes. In other types of cancer, taxonomy based on normal cell phenotypes has been extremely useful for diagnosis and treatment strategies. In this issue of the JCI, Santagata and colleagues developed a breast cancer classification scheme based on characterization of healthy mammary cells. Reclassification of breast cancer cells and breast cancer tissue microarrays with this system correlated with prognosis better than the standard receptor status designation. This scheme provides a major advance toward our understanding of the origin of the cells in the breast and breast cancers.

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