New role for BRCA1 protein in blood vessel growth

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists have shed new light on how mutations in the BRCA1 breast cancer gene can lead to cancer.

Inherited faults in the gene are linked to an approximate 80 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing the disease.

Previous work has shown that the protein made by the BRCA1 gene is involved in repairing damaged DNA.

Now researchers have found that BRCA1 also plays a role in blocking the development of the large blood vessels that tumours require to sustain their growth.

The researchers used a 'gene chip' microarray analysis - looking at the activity of thousands of genes simultaneously in one sample - to identify genes suppressed by the BRCA1 protein in normal breast cells.

Among the 12 genes inhibited by BRCA1 was the gene for a protein called ANG1, which enhances blood vessel growth and maturation.

In cells with faulty BRCA1 protein, the ANG1 gene was activated, encouraging the formation of new blood vessels.

"Our study finds that BRCA1 possesses a role in tumor suppression beyond maintaining genomic stability" said Dr. Wen-Hwa Lee from the Department of Biological Chemistry at the University of California

The research is published in the journal Cancer Cell.

Find out how mutations cause cancer