Gene variations may have breast cancer role, team says
Published: 7th Sep 2010 10:30:12
Researchers say they have identified a series of gene variations which together may play a role in the development of a common breast cancer.
A study of women in Finland and Sweden found 121 variations in their DNA.
The Singapore team think these are linked to oestrogen production - known to play a role in a breast cancer type which afflicts post-menopausal women.
The researchers say the findings might be used to identify women who might benefit from oestrogen-lowering drugs.
The researchers examined the genetic makeup of thousands of women with and without breast cancer in Sweden and Finland.
They found 121 tiny variations in 15 different genes which they say appear to be linked to a woman's risk of developing what is known as oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer.
Ultimately, we may be able to tailor oestrogen exposure up and down to optimise health and minimise risk”
The variations are in a section of DNA close to a gene responsible for producing oestrogen and the suggestion is that the variations may play a collective role in the production of the female sex hormone.
The individual impact of each variation is minimal but if a woman is dealt a combination of these variations, say the scientists, the higher her exposure to the hormone will be, and the higher the risk of cancer.
"Breast cancer genes have been identified, for example BRCA1, BRCA2, P53, ATM. These genes have been identified with breast cancer susceptibility but mainly in breast cancers of younger women," says Dr Edison Liu of the Genome Institute of Singapore, who led the study.
"What we are finding here is potentially the genetic amplifiers for breast cancer in postmenopausal women which historically was considered not genetic in origin."
It is already established that women who start menstruating early in life or who have a late menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer, because of their longer exposure to oestrogen. This research, says Dr Liu, may reveal the genetic element to the oestrogen equation.
"It's like being dealt a bad hand in a poker game," he says. "And this risk is greatly affected by other non-genetic factors like a woman's reproductive history," he says.
Dr Liu says that while the results will require further validation, the sample is large and the outcomes were significant. They have also detected the same genetic variations in women with cancer of the uterus where oestrogen exposure is also considered key.
Should the results be confirmed by further studies, he says the work could be used to identify women who carry a combination of these genetic variants, and who may benefit from existing oestrogen-lowering drugs to reduce the cancer risk.
"We're moving closer and closer to personalised and tailored medicines," he says. "Ultimately, we may be able to tailor oestrogen exposure up and down to optimise health and minimise risk."
Nell Barrie, science communications officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "We know that oestrogen levels play an important role in the development of breast and womb cancers.
"This research brings us a step closer to understanding the many subtle genetic changes that interact to affect individual women's risk of these diseases. Studying these changes should help to identify women most at risk so they can be offered tailored advice, screening and treatments in the future."
Details of the research are being unveiled today at the British Society for Human Genetics Annual Conference, which is being held in Warwick.
At 11:03:18 in HeadlinesIt is the day when Christians commemorate Jesus Christ's crucifixion. So why is it called Good Friday?
At 10:50:26 in EnglandA Good Friday service and procession will replace a Passion play which was cancelled after a council official did not realise it was a religious event.
At 10:46:28 in EnglandRail passengers travelling from Kent, Sussex and Surrey into London face disruption as engineering work takes place over the Easter weekend.
At 10:44:59 in EnglandA lorry driver who was arrested after a fatal pile-up on the M26 in Kent has been released on bail.
At 10:44:50 in SportCrystal Palace boss Tony Pulis is willing to meet the Premier League over claims his club were given Cardiff's team-sheet before they beat their rivals in early April.
At 10:41:20 in ScotlandThe CBI, representing many large businesses, has registered with the Electoral Commission as a backer of the campaign against Scottish independence.
At 10:37:09 in EnglandVandals attacked street art believed to be by Banksy which appeared in Cheltenham this week - but it was saved by drinkers who rushed from a nearby pub to wash off the paint.
At 10:30:38 in HeadlinesThe United States is to release frozen Iranian funds, saying Tehran has kept commitments made under an interim deal over its nuclear programme.
At 10:08:35 in HealthTests taken by foreign doctors who want to work in the NHS should be made harder to pass to bring them in line with UK standards, a study has said.
At 10:02:31 in WalesA motorcyclist has died after being involved in a collision with a parked vehicle in Neath.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Gene variations may have breast cancer role, team says [Online] (Updated 7th Sep 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/88031/Gene-variations-may-have-breast-cancer-role-team-says [Accessed 18th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Presidents and fellow writers have been paying tribute to Nobel prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez who has died in Mexico aged 87.
A Good Friday service and procession will replace a Passion play which was cancelled after a council official did not realise it was a religious event.
Tests taken by foreign doctors who want to work in the NHS should be made harder to pass to bring them in line with UK standards, a study has said.
How do you tell the world about your remote-controlled flying fish toys?