UK scientists discover 100 genes linked to breast cancer
A new study has linked 110 genes to an increased risk of breast cancer, paving the way for a better understanding of the disease.
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London in the United Kingdom have analysed maps of DNA regions using a pioneering genetic technique. This has enabled them to explore the areas where inherited risk lies and even identify the specific genes that give a woman a higher risk of breast cancer. In a further advancement, the research also identified 32 genes linked to the length of time a patient could survive the disease. Building on previous mapping studies, the scientists concentrated in detail on 63 areas of the genome, but as a complex phenomenon called DNA looping means that DNA sequences can interact with completely different parts of the genome, this was not straightforward. By developing a technique called Capture Hi-C, the researchers managed to overcome this problem and study the interactions between various parts of the genome. Astonishingly, they discovered that some of the 63 areas of the genome were physically interacting with genes so far away they were separated by more than a million letters of DNA code. The 110 new genes identified as potentially increasing the risk of breast cancer were found in 33 of the regions they looked at, while the other 30 did not result in any findings. Going into the study, the researchers had patient data for 97 of the target genes and 32 of these could be linked to survival in patients with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. The legacy of this study could be that women could be tested for these genes to establish if they have a high risk of developing the disease and subsequently offered preventative treatments. Most of the genes that were identified had not been linked to the risk of breast cancer in the past and future studies will be able to build on the research.