Cancer: Genetic breakthrough in breast cancer fight
Researchers are hopeful that new drugs to target breast cancer could be developed following the identification of a gene found to have a crucial role in the formation of tumours.
The mutated IKBKE gene was found to be present in 30% to 40% of all breast cancers.
The breakthrough was made by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who found that the gene can mutate during a woman's lifetime, leading to increased cell growth and breast tumours. This differs from breast cancer-susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are inherited in a mutated form.
According to Cancer Research UK, the researchers believe it may now be possible to develop drugs that specifically target the gene. This could help treat a "sizeable percentage" of breast cancers, said the charity.
The research could also lead to a new screening process being used to identify more genes that play a role in the development of cancer.
Scientists hope that the new three-part screening process, which was used to identify the IKBKE gene, could lead to similar breakthroughs.
Co-senior author of the research, Dr William Hahn, explained that the study used several complementary approaches to identify the gene, with each method helping to 'filter' the information from the previous one.
"In the current study, we used several complementary approaches to identify an important breast cancer gene, enabling us to zero in on the strongest candidate.
"This triple-screening approach enabled us to study what happened to cells when IKBKE was turned on and when it was shut off, and to take a global look at the genetic alterations within breast cancer cell lines and tumours," he said.
"Integrating these techniques allowed us to identify a new breast cancer oncogene and show that it plays a crucial role in the formation and survival of tumours," he added.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the UK - according to Cancer Research UK, there are over 44,000 new cases in the country each year. This accounts for almost one in three of all cancer cases in women, and the lifetime risk for breast cancer in women is one in nine.
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