Gene breakthrough could lead to new breast cancer treatments.

12-03-2018 20:54

By: Laura Donnelly, Health Editor.

Breast scan

The findings were described as a "treasure trove"

Credit: PA.

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

It comes after they discovered more than 100 genes linked to the disease - including 32 genes linked to survival, in the most comprehensive study of its kind.

Experts said the "treasure trove" of findings could help scientists to creat new genetic tests to predict the risk of disease, and ensure treatment was better targeted.

Around 55,000 women develop breast cancer each year, with 11,000 dying.

Scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London used a novel genetic technique called Capture Hi-C to analyse which genes interacted with 33 DNA regions known to affect breast cancer.

Most of the 110 genes found in the study had not been linked to breast cancer risk before, making them fresh targets for potential therapies.

Of those, 32 were linked to survival in women with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, the findings, published in Nature Communications, found.

The ICR said that testing for those genes could be used to target prevention efforts on women most at risk of developing disease and to test new treatments.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, which funded the study, said: "These are really important findings. We urgently need to unravel how the genetic changes in the building blocks of our DNA influence a woman's risk of breast cancer, and this study adds another vital piece to this jigsaw.

"More women are now being diagnosed with breast cancer than ever before, and these crucial findings could ultimately help us more accurately predict who is most at risk and develop new targeted treatments."

Dr Olivia Fletcher, team leader in functional genetic epidemiology at the institute, said:

"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."

Professor Paul Workman, the chief executive of the ICR, said: "Large-scale genomic studies have been instrumental in associating areas of our DNA with an increased risk of breast cancer. This study brings these regions of DNA into sharper focus, uncovering a treasure trove of genes that can now be investigated in more detail."