Certain changes in immune cells within cancerous tumours which reflect how tumours behave in common cancers could see better treatments created in the future. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, also discovered a set of genes expressed at high levels in breast cancer tumours, and often linked to more aggressive types of cancer.

Sometimes immune cells can wrongly identify cancer tissue as healthy, helping tumours to spread. Looking particularly at those cells in endometrium and breast cancers, the researchers found differences in monocytes present in cancer patients’ blood compared with healthy individuals. This could have significance for the development of biomarkers.

In addition to this, the researchers found 37 genes which were highly expressed in breast cancer tumour immune cells compared with healthy tissue. This signature was particularly notable in aggressive cancers, and could be used to increase the accuracy of breast cancer prognosis. Two of the genes, found to be linked to patient survival, will be particularly targeted for future treatments.