RESULTS from the biggest breast cancer tumour study ever conducted could revolutionise the way the disease is diagnosed and treated, it has been claimed.

Scientists reclassified breast cancers into 10 new categories based on their genetic "fingerprints".

Several entirely new genes that drive the disease were also uncovered.

The wealth of new data is expected to lead to better ways of predicting patient survival, as well as novel treatments tailored to people's genetic make-up.

The research, published in the journal Nature, is the largest ever global study of breast cancer tissue.

It marks the culmination of decades of work by British and Canadian scientists led by a Cancer Research UK team from Cambridge.

Genetic material from 2000 tumour samples taken from women diagnosed with breast cancer between five and 10 years ago was analysed in the study.

The scientists sorted the samples into 10 subtypes based on common genetic features linked to survival. The new classification has major implications for drug treatment, paving the way to personalised therapies.

All the cancer genes identified by the scientists are potential targets for the development of new drugs.

Links between these genes and known cell signalling pathways – the networks that control cancer growth – were also revealed. This will make it easier to pinpoint how the faulty genes cause cancer.

Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute, said: "Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work, and those that won't, in a much more precise way than is currently possible.

"This research won't affect women diagnosed with cancer today. But in the future, patients will receive treatment targeted to the genetic fingerprint of their tumour."

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "This landmark study will completely change the way we look at breast cancer. It's the result of decades of research by our scientists to identify the causes and drivers of the disease."

A total of 4368 woman in Scotland were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, according to the latest official figures.