Scientists announced on Thursday that they have pinpointed four new genes believed to be involved in the development of breast cancer.
By examining tissue from 53 breast cancer tumours and cells grown in the laboratory, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England narrowed down the search for the genes that that could provide a basis for new treatments for the disease.
“By using the latest in DNA technology we’ve been able to pinpoint four new genes likely to be involved in the development of breast cancer,” said Professor Carlos Caldas, who headed the research team.
“Not only is this an exciting advance towards understanding how breast cancer develops, it also heralds a revolutionary new era in the discovery of genes linked to the disease,” he added in a statement.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. More than a million new cases occur each year, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
Most breast cancers are caused by damage to genes during a women’s lifetime. Inherited mutations in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 are involved in cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
Caldas, who reported his findings in the journal Oncogene, said scientists have been trying to pinpoint the new genes for two decades.
He and his team used DNA microarray technology, which enables scientists to analyse the expression of many genes at the same time, to search for the breast cancer genes.
“Hopefully this cutting edge technology will trigger a parallel increase in the speed at which new cancer treatments reach the patient,” Caldas said.
Early results indicate that tumours with multiple copies of the genes are more aggressive.
“If this is confirmed, it might provide a lead for targeted therapies in these cases,” Caldas added.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD