London: Scientists have discovered three key breast cancer genes which they claim may pave the way for vital new treatments for the most common form of the disease, and thus help save thousands of lives worldwide every year.
The sex hormone`s key role in the process means that the genetics of the oestrogen receptor have been intensively studied for decades. So, the scientists were stunned to find the DNA near it harboured three previously unknown genes.Dr Anita Dunbier, the study`s lead author, said: "We found the genes in a place we thought we knew a lot about -- it is like finding gold in Trafalgar Square. It seemed too obvious to be true. We had to check things very thoroughly to make sure it wasn`t just a false discovery."We now have to look further at how these genes work but the discovery could lead to possible new therapies that will benefit women with breast cancer in the near future."Importantly, despite the genes` proximity to the oestrogen receptor, they work separately from it. This means that new treatments could work where existing ones fail, say the scientists.Dr Dunbier said: "What we hope to do is unlock the door to more treatment options."Creating new drugs from scratch can take years but the research team hopes to speed up the process by testing medicines that are already on the market for other illnesses.Dr Dunbier said: "There could be things out there already that were designed for something else and could target this. The next step will be to screen various compounds to see if any of them have an effect."Added team member Prof Mitch Dowsett said: "This research is exciting because it shows that while the oestrogen receptor is the main driver of hormonal breast cancer, there are others next door to it that also appear to influence breast cancer behaviour."The findings have been published in the latest issue of the `PLoS Genetics` journal. PTI
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