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HomeAus & NZBreast cancer breakthrough: NZ-led research finds way to reduce risk without surgery

Breast cancer breakthrough: NZ-led research finds way to reduce risk without surgery

'Quick read' news summary

A global study led by the University of Otago has discovered a gene that, when modified, could reduce the risk of breast cancer. The research involved 26,000 women known to have the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations of the breast cancer genes, the largest study of its kind. The researchers also discovered that women who have the BRCA-1 gene with segments missing are at the highest risk of developing breast cancer.

A global study led by the University of Otago has discovered a gene that, when modified, could reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Finding the new gene also opens the door to developing a drug that reduces the risk of cancer.

The research involved 26,000 women known to have the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations of the breast cancer genes, the largest study of its kind.

“The discovery came after looking at thousands of women around the world,” said associate professor Logan Walker, who led the study.

“It allowed us to look at genetic changes; these genetic changes pointed us in a direction where we could see that for some women who were at a high risk of developing breast cancer, they also inherited another genetic change which lessened that risk.

“That instantly made us look to see what gene that was, what protein that was producing and could we effectively inhibit that protein in a medical sense to reduce risk for those women.”

In New Zealand, around one in every 250 women inherits one of these mutations.

Currently, the most effective strategy for these women at high risk of breast cancer is a bilateral mastectomy.

Walker said although surgery was effective, it could cause ongoing psychological and physiological harm to patients, especially to younger women.

Researchers said reducing the levels of protein produced by the new gene, SULT1A1, lowered the chance of a woman getting breast cancer – especially if she also has a mutation in the BRCA-1 gene.

“When we turned down the activity of the SULT1A1 gene in breast cells, the cells grew more slowly and were more resistant to DNA damage,” Walker said.

The researchers also discovered that women who have the BRCA-1 gene with segments missing are at the highest risk of developing breast cancer.

Otago’s Dr George Wiggins is leading the next step: developing a risk-reducing drug.

“Prophylactic

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