Living with cancer blog

Genomics study targets women with breast cancer

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. October 5, 2013

A Mayo Clinic breast cancer genome guided therapy study, known as the BEAUTY study, is working to develop individualized care for women with breast cancer.

The study is designed for women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer and planning to have chemotherapy treatment before surgery (also called neoadjuvant chemotherapy).

One focus is why current standard chemotherapy works well for some patients but not for others. Another is to develop drugs to improve and individualize care based on the tumor genetic make-up.

State-of-the-art genomics tools are used to allow researchers to understand why some tumors respond better than others to chemotherapy.

Genetic information will be collected both from patients' tumors as well as their blood, in order to allow a full analysis of all of the genomic alterations that affect response to the different chemotherapy drugs that are administered during the study.

Biopsies taken from the breast tumor during the study allow researchers the ability to preserve and grow the patient's cancers in laboratory mice (outside of the body) in order to test and find the chemotherapy drug(s) that works best for each patient's tumor.

These xenografts (also called avatars) provide the most realistic reproduction of the patient's tumor and the best opportunity for researchers to individualize care by developing drugs customized for future patients based on the genetic makeup of the tumor.

The study also involves the use of molecular breast imaging (MBI), a new imaging tool that helps doctors better image breast cancer. MBI produces a more accurate image of tumor location and size providing information on how the tumor is responding to chemotherapy.

All women newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer planning to receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy are eligible to participate in the study who:

  • Are eligible for chemotherapy before surgery
  • Have a 1.5 cm or larger tumor with no cancer elsewhere (except possibly in their lymph nodes)
  • Aren't pregnant or breastfeeding

Participants will be closely monitored by medical oncologists along with imaging (including MRI and MBI scans) to see how their tumors respond to chemotherapy.

Tumor tissue and blood samples are collected at multiple time points in the study. The first biopsy is performed before starting any chemotherapy; the second after 12 weeks of chemotherapy, and finally, tissue from the tumor is collected at the time of surgery.

Tumor imaging is done at the same time points that biopsies are collected. Women taking part in the study will be followed closely for 5 years.

For more information about the study, please call (507) 538-7623 or visit the Center for Individualized Medicine page at Mayo Clinic (


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Oct. 05, 2013