A Near-Perfect Picture of the Genetic Events that Cause Breast Cancer
International scientists say they now have a ‘near-perfect’ picture of the genetic events that cause breast cancer, a disease affecting one in eight Australian women.
The study, published in the renowned journal Nature, has generated attention across the globe, proving that researchers can remain hopeful and determined about their research into the prevention and treatment of this heartbreaking disease.
Associate Professor Wendy Ingman, who supported by Australian Breast Cancer Research leads the Breast Biology and Cancer Unit at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research, says these findings are good news for breast cancer researchers, confirming they are on the right track.
“The paper published in Nature by Nik-Zainal et al has used an approach called whole genome sequencing to study the driver mutations that lead to breast cancer,” A/Prof Ingman said.
“Breast cancer develops when there are mutations in genes due to carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer in the body) exposure leading to DNA damage. It can also develop when there are errors in DNA replication, but these mutations can occur quite randomly.
“In many genes, mutations can occur which have no impact, but mutation in some genes can lead to cancer,” she said.
A/Prof Ingman explained that when gene mutations in a patient are studied, there are usually many mutations in different genes and some of these are “drivers” of breast cancer while most are “passengers”. These drivers and passengers are very difficult to separate.
The study published in Nature is a comprehensive study, using breast cancer samples from 560 patients.
“The size of the study has enabled the researchers to separate out the drivers from the passengers and they have found 93 driver mutations. All but five of these were already known to researchers as driver mutations,” A/Prof Ingman explained.
“This study really highlights that there are a large number of gene mutations that cause breast cancer – breast cancer is not a simple disease, there are many different subtypes of disease.”
A/Prof Ingman says a tailored approach to treating breast cancer based on targeting the specific genes that drive that cancer is required to improve survival rates.
“The good news is that the vast majority of driver mutations were already known, indicating that current research developing new therapies for these driver mutations is on the right track.”
Do you want to help researcher continue to fight for a cure for breast cancer? You can support A/Prof Ingman and her team in their research. Click here for more information.