Breakthrough could lead to new breast cancer treatments

Henrietta Strickland
March 13, 2018

Genetic counselors also may discover a risk for other cancers or identify other members of a patient's family who are eligible for genetic testing. Identifying these new genes will help us to understand in much greater detail the genetics of breast cancer risk.

Finding the genes responsible for the increased risk is not straightforward because small sequences of DNA can interact with completely different parts of the genome through a unusual phenomenon known as "DNA looping".

That discovery paved the way for the first personalised cancer medicines, which tailors drugs to a woman's genetics.

The ICR researchers developed the high-throughput, high-resolution Capture Hi-C technique to identify the physical interactions between regulatory elements and their target genes, however far apart they are.

"All cancer specialties have the opportunity and responsibility to incorporate genetic counseling more fully into breast cancer management", wrote Steven J. Katz, MD, MPH, of the University of MI in Ann Arbor, and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. A quarter of these patients were not counseled about their potential risk, a new study finds.

"Our study took the high-level maps of breast cancer risk regions and used them to pull out specific genes that seem to be associated with the disease", study author Dr Olivia Fletcher, told the Daily Mail.

Most of the 110 genes found in the study had not been linked to breast cancer risk before, and further work will be needed to determine the extent of their role in the disease.

One of these, called FADD, has previously been linked to head and neck cancer and lung cancer and could be a promising target for new cancer therapies.

"In all data sources combined there were support for 48 CHi-C target genes mapping to 32 loci from at least one additional source and there was support for six genes mapping to six loci from at least two additional sources", the authors write.

Among all patients with an indication for counseling studied, 831 patients never received a genetic test following their breast cancer diagnosis - only half of those (50.6%) underwent a discussion about their genetic risk.

When a woman with a family history of cancer gets diagnosed with breast cancer or when a woman is diagnosed at a young age, it could suggest she has a genetic predisposition for breast cancer.

Breast cancer remains one of the most highly visible forms of cancer in the public eye, with one in nine women and one in 1,000 men affected by the disease.

The team found that certain genes responsible for breast cancer had remained hidden from scientists because they were interacting with genes in a completely different part of the body's genetic code.

'Large-scale genomic studies have been instrumental in associating areas of our DNA with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Their findings could unlock fresh treatments, with 32 of the genes linked to how long women survived and potentially offering targets for new drugs.

Scientists say a new breakthrough could lead to new breast cancer treatments and drugs which prevent the disease.

Around 15 percent of all breast cancers are "triple negative", with around 7,500 women in the United Kingdom being diagnosed each year.

The organization's chief executive, Baroness Delyth Morgan, added, "These are really important findings".

The new study helps researchers come closer to understanding how DNA influences a woman's risk of breast cancer.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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