Each October many people can be seen wearing pink ribbons or something pink, symbolizing breast cancer awareness as October is designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a worldwide yearly campaign aimed at boosting awareness about the disease and raising funds for research into its causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and potential cure.
Breast cancer has replaced lung cancer to become the number one cancer worldwide for the first time in 2020, according to statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization. In 2020, the global new breast cancer cases reached as high as 2.26 million, surpassing lung cancer cases of 2.2 million. The high incidence is due to an increase in life expectancy, and the incidence has been steadily rising, particularly in developed regions.
Although it can affect both men and women, it predominantly affects women. Breast cancer usually originates in the milk ducts or lobules and can manifest as either invasive or non-invasive, depending on its extent beyond these areas.
Wearing pink ribbons is a way of showing strength and support.
Approximately 13% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. The 5-year survival rate for localized breast cancer (Stage I) hovers around 90%, while the rate for distant-stage breast cancer (Stage IV) is only 27%.
Advancements in science and technology have continually expanded our understanding and treatment of breast cancer, from the invention of mammography to the emergence of neoadjuvant therapies. These innovations have saved numerous lives by improving breast cancer detection and treatment.
Today, genomics technology, stemming from the Human Genome Project, has emerged as the latest and most potent tool for revealing the true nature of this formidable disease.
Genomics enables the identification of specific genetic mutations and alterations in breast cancer cells. This information empowers healthcare professionals to identify genetic markers associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer in the early stage and tailor therapies to target the specific genetic abnormalities present in breast cancer cells. By comprehending the genetic foundations of the disease, scientists work towards more effective treatments and potential cures, while pharmaceutical companies gain insights for developing new drugs.
Scientists from research institutions worldwide are working tirelessly to combat breast cancer, with BGI Group taking a prominent role in this endeavor.
Among the technological breakthroughs is BGI's single-cell sequencing technology, which enables the analysis of tumor cell heterogeneity and various cell types in a given environment. This surpasses previous methods that only provided average gene expression levels for entire cell populations, failing to capture the state of each component in the tumor environment.
The introduction of BGI's spatial multi-omics technology, Stereo-seq, has significantly elevated cancer research. Stereo-seq incorporates spatial information, allowing researchers to observe the position and status characteristics of cells, which is crucial for understanding the cancer microenvironment, particularly the interaction between cells.
When combined with research on various stages of cancer development, Stereo-seq technology offers a deeper understanding of tumor progression and the local key factors influencing it. This knowledge provides a solid theoretical basis and guidance for cancer diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment.
As of November 2022, BGI has published over 440 SCI (Science Citation Index) papers in the field of cancer research, with a cumulative impact factor of over 4,000 points. A consistent number of important BGI papers have been published in Nature Medicine, Cell, Nature, Science, Cell Research, Nature Genetics, and other top scientific journals.
BGI’s research scope covers over 20 types of cancers, including lung cancer, esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, glioma, and brain tumor.
Stereo-seq technology has also been adopted by many cancer experts from international research institutes, such as the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Australia, and Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) in Belgium. BGI has established collaborations with these leading research institutions to foster a global community focused on cancer research.
According to the World Health Organization, many cancers can be cured if detected early and treated effectively. This goes hand in hand with what is believed by BGI Group, that early screening is very important.
BGI Group provides SeqBRCA™-Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Susceptibility Genes BRCA1/2 Genetic Risk Assessment, as well as BGI SENTIS™ Hereditary Cancer Screening for early detection of breast cancer and other cancer types.
In early 2022, BGI's BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene Mutation Detection Kit received approval from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA). This kit identifies and classifies genetic variants of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, commonly associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.
In July 2023, BGI Genomics, a subsidiary of BGI Group, achieved "Good" ratings across all assessed categories in the College of American Pathologists (CAP) BRCA-A 2023 BRCA1/2 Sequencing evaluation program at three of its medical testing laboratories in Denmark, Shenzhen, and Tianjin. BGI Genomics maintains an annual tradition of participating in the CAP PT programs, with its laboratories in Denmark, Australia, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Tianjin consistently achieving "Good" performance ratings.
Breast cancer remains a formidable foe, but with the aid of genomics technology and organizations like BGI Group, progress is being made in the battle against this devastating disease. Genomics equips us with the tools to better understand, prevent, and treat breast cancer, ultimately improving the lives of countless individuals and families worldwide.