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Key information about breast cancer risk and development is found in 'junk' DNA
Date:12/16/2010

technology," explained Harold "Skip" Garner, VBI executive director who leads the institute's Medical Informatics and Systems Division. "We are now working to translate this biomarker into the clinical setting as a way to inform doctors and patients about breast cancer susceptibility, development, and progression. Akin to the major breast cancer biomarkers BRCA1 and BRCA2, this will be of particular benefit to those high-risk patients with a history of cancer in their family."

The majority of DNA is non-coding, meaning its not transcribed into protein. The largest amount of this type of DNA consists of these microsatellites specific repeated sequences of one to six nucleotides within the genome. There are over two million microsatellites in the human genome, yet only a small number of these repetitive sequences have previously been linked to disease, particularly neurological disorders and cancer.

"We've become increasingly aware that non-coded DNA has an important function related to human disease," said Michael Skinner, M.D., professor of pediatric surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and collaborator on the project. "Replication of this study in another set of patients is needed, but the results indicate that that this particular gene is an important one in breast cancer and they reveal more details about the expression of the gene. This kind of work could eventually result in the creation of a drug that would specifically interact with this gene to return expression levels to a normal range."

"Ninety percent of all the breast cancer patients we see aren't considered high risk patients, which means there wasn't any indication that they would be susceptible to breast cancer," said Dr. James Mullet, a radiologist at Carilion Clinic's Breast Care Center. "This compels us to screen everyone in some way. If we had a better test one that is more robust and sensitive, but also specific we could make sure the wome
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Contact: Susan Bland
subland@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-7912
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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