It’s been 20 years since the BRCA1 gene was found to predispose women to breast cancer, and researchers at Yale have pinpointed what about the gene’s mutation leads to cancer.
The team’s findings, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, can lead to drugs designed to specifically target and fight breast and ovarian cancers. The discovery can also help doctors recognize female patients who are at a high risk of developing those cancers earlier, the study said.
“There have been about 14,000 papers written about BRCA1, and you would think we already know everything about the gene, but we don’t,” Yale Cancer center professor Patrick Sung told the Yale News. “Defining the mechanism of the BRCA-dependent DNA repair pathway will help scientists design drugs to kill cancer cells more efficiently.”
It was previously thought that the BRCA1 and related BRCA2 genes might account for about 8% of breast and ovarian cancers, but Sung believes that percentage will increase because in many previous cancer cases, the BRCA mutation wasn’t identifiable.
“Understanding this mechanism will provide the predictive power for doctors trying to establish a patient’s personal risk of developing cancer,” he said.