ANN ARBOR, Mich. Researchers in a multicenter international study have identified a new gene that, if mutated, may increase a womans risk of breast cancer by more than a third.
Further, the researchers found that the gene, HMMR, interacts with the well-known breast cancer gene BRCA1. Alternations in either gene cause genetic instability and interfere with cell division, which could be a path to breast cancer developing. This leads researchers to not just a single gene, but a pathway that may be a potential target for treating or detecting breast cancer.
Results of the study appear in the advance online edition of Nature Genetics.
HMMR is mutated in about 10 percent of the population. Mutations in the two main genes involved in breast cancer susceptibility, BRCA1 and BRCA2, occur in about one of every 300 individuals, or less than 1 percent of the population.
If we can identify variations of genes that are more common in the population that increase breast cancer risk, then targeting that gene for early detection or treatment will have a greater impact, says Kristen Stevens, M.P.H., a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and one of the lead authors on the paper.
The study was an international collaboration with researchers from Spain, Israel and several centers in the United States, including the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Researchers started by developing a computerized network-modeling tool that allows many different types of existing scientific data sources to be analyzed easily to identify genes that impact cancer development. The researchers started with four genes already known to play a role in breast cancer BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM and CHEK2. They were then able to see how each of these genes interacts with other genes in the body. Through this model, HMMR emerged as a key player in breast cancer. The authors then showed that alterations of either
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University of Michigan Health System