Scientists have gone back to the past to find a new target for breast cancer treatment.
A team working at Salk Institute for Biological Studies revisited the theory first hypothesised in the 1800s that the development of organs in an embryo and the development of tumours are related.
The new study has identified innovative ways to predict and personalise the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
Stem cells have a built-in capacity to know where they are meant to be inside the human embryo, but this system is destroyed in cancerous cells, which could explain their presence in tumours, doctors explained.
"The cells that fuel the development of tumours in the adult are unlikely to 'invent' entirely new patterns of gene expression," said Benjamin Spike, co-author of the work.
According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer survival rates have been improving for the past 40 years, with eight out of ten patients living for at least five years after diagnosis.