International Study Unveils New Genes Associated with Breast Cancer

Category Health

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A large-scale international collaborative study has pinpointed new genes correlated with breast cancer, potentially opening up the possibility to new treatments and more effective breast screening methods. 4 new genes have been identified, and a comprehensive risk assessment tool is being developed to integrate this information to aid in shared decision-making for high-risk women.

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A large-scale international collaborative study has identified new genes associated with breast cancer. A groundbreaking international study led by Professor Jacques Simard from Université Laval and Professor Douglas Easton of the University of Cambridge, UK, has pinpointed new genes correlated with breast cancer. These findings could be integrated into future tests to identify women with heightened risk .

This is the largest study of its kind, made possible by data from 8 countries in Europe and Asia

Present-day genetic tests for breast cancer predominantly factor in specific genes like BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2. However, these genes account for only a fraction of the genetic risk, indicating the likelihood of unidentified genes playing a role. The research unveiled at least four new breast cancer risk genes and presented tentative evidence for several others. Recognizing these genes not only deepens our comprehension of breast cancer’s genetic risk but also enhances risk predictions .

4 new genes and several potential ones have been uncovered

This refined understanding will foster more effective breast screening methods, risk mitigation, and clinical management strategies. Furthermore, uncovering these novel genes offers invaluable insights into the biological processes that trigger cancer growth, potentially paving the way for innovative new treatments. The overarching objective is to integrate this information into an existing comprehensive risk assessment tool widely adopted by global healthcare experts .

It was revealed on August 18th, 2023 in Nature Genetics

Professor Jacques Simard from Université Laval underscores, "Improving genetic counseling for high-risk women will promote shared decision-making regarding risk reduction strategies, screening, and determination of treatment options.""Although most of the variants identified in these new genes are rare, the risks can be significant for women who carry them. For example, alterations in one of the new genes, MAP3K1, appear to give rise to a particularly high risk of breast cancer," adds Professor Simard, researcher at the Genomics Center of the CHU de Québec-Université Laval Research Center .

Developing a comprehensive risk assessment tool that incorporates these findings is the current overarching objective

The strength of the study lies in the genetic data that was used for the analysis. Genetic changes in all genes were looked at in 26,000 women with breast cancer and 217,000 women without breast cancer. These included women from eight countries in Europe and Asia. "To our knowledge, this is the largest study of its kind. It was made possible through the use of data from multiple collaborators in many countries, as well as publicly available data from the UK Biobank," says Professor Douglas Easton, Director of the Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology of the University of Cambridge .

This information may pave the way to new treatments and more effective breast screening methods

Before this information can be used in a clinical setting, scientists need to validate the results in further datasets. "We need additional data to determine more precisely the risks of cancer associated with variants in these genes, to study the characteristics of the tumors, and to understand how these genetic effects combine with other lifestyle factors affecting breast cancer risks," says Professor Easton .

Other lifestyle factors can further influence breast cancer risk

The research team is currently pursuing a large-scale international effort designed for this purpose.

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