Study finds 110 genes associated with breast cancer risk

In the most comprehensive study ever looking at the genetics of breast cancer, scientists have linked 110 genes to an increased risk of the disease.

The Institute of Cancer Research study used a pioneering genetic technique to analyse 63 areas of the genome that had previously been associated with the risk of breast cancer.

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

But the researchers used a technique called Capture Hi-C to study interactions between different regions of the genome.

The study, published in Nature Communications, uncovered which specific genes were involved and how that might increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

The researchers were able to identify 110 genes that could potentially cause an increased risk of breast cancer.

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

The researchers also identified genes which were associated with breast cancer survival in women with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

They say that in future, testing for these genes could help pick out women who are most at risk of developing the disease – or they could be explored as targets for new drugs.

The Institute of Cancer Research’s Dr Olivia Fletcher says the research is the first step in process which could lead to the development of new medicines.

“Identifying these new genes will help us to understand in much greater detail the genetics of breast cancer risk.

“Ultimately, our study could pave the way for new genetic tests to predict a woman’s risk, or new types of targeted treatment.”

4 May 2018

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