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Scientists to study hereditary breast cancer to find BRCA1 treatment
Date:7/29/2014

Deborah Kelly and Zhi Sheng, assistant professors at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, recently received a grant from the Commonwealth Health Research Board to investigate hereditary breast cancer, an effort that may lead to new treatment approaches.

The board funds research intended to benefit Virginia residents.

The grant will fund a two-year project to study the mechanisms behind hereditary breast cancer related to the BRCA1 gene. This type of cancer often has a poor outcome, especially in Virginians compared with the national average.

"BRCA1-related tumors are usually triple negative, meaning they lack estrogen, progesterone, and Her2 receptors, which are effective drug targets for treating other forms of breast cancer," Kelly said. "Targeted treatments do not exist for BRCA1-related tumors, which tend to be more aggressive and difficult to manage by conventional therapies. They are also more likely to recur."

Kelly recently received a young investigator award from the Concern Foundation, which will provide funding to investigate the molecular mechanisms of oxidative damage that can increase the risk of breast cancer, especially when combined with a BRCA1 gene mutation.

In its healthy state, BRCA1 acts as a tumor suppressor. The BRCA1 protein, a product of the gene, helps coordinate the repair of damaged DNA in cells before they divide.

"Tumor-suppressing genes exist in all cells, but if one is mutated, the vital DNA protection is lost," Sheng said.

If the BRCA1 gene is mutated, it doesn't properly protect the DNA and can eventually lead to transformation of cells to the cancerous state.

About
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Contact: Paula Brewer Byron
paulabyron@vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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