Breast cancer gene `discovered`

Washington: Scientists have discovered a gene which they claim can determine more accurately whether a woman has an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

An international team, led by University of Melbourne, says its has used new technology to fast track the discovery of the breast cancer risk gene, called XRCC2, which could in
turn assist in the discovery of other cancer genes.

Prof Melissa Southey, who led the study, said it was a significant discovery and the first breast cancer risk gene to be discovered using the latest genetic sequencing technology.

"The mutations in the newly identified gene XRCC2, although rare, explain another proportion of breast cancers that run in families where there is no known genetic cause and that particularly occur at an early age.

"We identified this gene quite quickly using genetic technology called massively parallel sequencing, which enables sequencing of large amounts of human DNA at high speed.

"Due to these results and our methodology we believe that further breast cancer risk genes will be identified at a faster rate than before and potentially for other cancers such as colorectal and prostate cancers," she said.

The scientists say that the discovery of the gene could help manage the risk of breast cancer for families with a strong history of the disease and no known genetic cause.

"This discovery will assist some families to determine individual risk and which family members are at high risk of contracting the disease.

"Unaffected relatives of people with a mutation in this gene could also be offered predictive testing, subsequent genetic counselling and ongoing clinical management on the basis of their mutation status," Southey said in a release.

The findings have been published in the `American Journal of Human Genetics`.


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