'Protective' breast cancer gene may lead to new treatments

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists looking for new breast cancer genes have discovered a genetic variant that appears to slightly reduce the risk of breast cancer among the women who inherit it.

Certain inherited variations in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 are known to increase breast cancer risk. This study is the first to identify a gene that could reduce cancer risk.

Although the discovery may not lead directly to any changes in medical care or screening, understanding how the gene variant exerts its protective effect could afford scientists a deeper understanding of the disease.

The researchers involved said the result proved that their technique, which looked at large numbers of women, could now be used reliably to hunt for more gene variants that affect cancer risk.

The international research team, led by Dr Angela Cox of Sheffield University, analysed data from 14 original studies covering 33,000 women.

They looked at variations called 'single nucleotide polymorphisms', or SNPs, in nine genes that previous research had hinted might play a role in breast cancer, of which the CASP8 gene was one.

CASP8 is thought to play a role in the natural cycle of cell death that is suppressed by cancer cells.

They found that women who carried the gene variant, known as CASP8 D302H, were ten per cent less likely to develop breast cancer.

The study is published in Nature Genetics.

Read the abstract on PubMed