Discovery of breast cancer genes will identify sufferers - Independent
"Some scientists believe that the latest studies, published online in the journals Nature and Nature Genetics, are among the most important in the field of breast cancer since the first susceptibility genes for inherited forms of the disease were identified in the mid-1990s.
"This set of incredible scientific studies points to the future understanding of the genetics of cancer," said Professor Karol Sikora, a leading cancer specialist, who was not directly involved with the latest work.
"In theory, it allows you to look at thousands of people to study their genes and to find associations that we just didn't see before," Professor Sikora said.
Several teams of scientists took part in the latest studies, with the biggest led by Douglas Easton, a professor of cancer epidemiology at Cambridge University, who studied the DNA of nearly 50,000 women, half of whom had breast cancer.
The scientists used "DNA chips" to screen each person's genome for genetic variations that were found to be strongly linked with breast cancer. Small variations in four genes emerged as the most likely associations.
"We're very excited by these results because the regions we identified don't contain previously known inherited cancer genes," Professor Easton said.
"This opens the door to new research directions. Only very recent advances in technology have allowed us to carry out such a large comparison study," he said.
Already, the scientists are applying the same approach to other cancers, such as prostate, lung and bowel cancers, in the hope of identifying genetic changes that can trigger a higher risk of developing any of the diseases.
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in British women with some 44,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
Inherited forms of breast cancer that are known to run in families account for between 5 and 10 per cent of cases. These genes - called BRCA1 and BRCA2 - were the first to be identified in the mid-1990s."
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