Scientists discover key breast cancer gene
Cancer experts have identified a gene which can cause a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer to develop.
ZNF703 is the first “oncogene” to be discovered in five years. It is overactive in around one in 12 breast cancers, and could account for up to 4,000 cases a year. Cancer Research UK, whose scientists carried out the work, said the gene was a “prime candidate” for the development of new breast cancer drugs.
What is an oncogene?
An oncogene is one which would normally help instruct healthy cells to divide but if it becomes overactive, it upsets the normal checks and balances that control that process. That damage is described as being “like a car’s accelerator becoming stuck down”, and the cell and all its daughter cells are permanently instructed to divide.
Her2 – another oncogene – is already tested for. The drug Herceptin was developed to treat Her2 positive breast cancers. An oncogene is one which would normally help instruct healthy cells to divide but if it becomes overactive, it upsets the normal checks and balances that control that process.
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said
This is the first gene of its kind to be discovered in breast cancer for five years. This is exciting because it’s a prime candidate for the development of new breast cancer drugs designed specifically to target tumours in which this gene is overactive. Hopefully this will lead to more effective cancer treatments in the future.
Good to see this
This is the first gene of its kind to be discovered in breast cancer for five years! Why is cancer research so slow??
Val, I know! It is very frustrating to see rapid advances being made in other areas of medical research and yet have to stand by and see who slow it moves in cancer.
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Such an incredible development. It may have taken a long time, but this is great news for the breast cancer community. I look forward to new drugs coming out that target this gene.
Marie, Thanks for posting this. This is really important information for those of us with BRCA mutations. I hope this information leads to the development of better drugs for treatment. There seems to be real possibilities here. I hope so anyway.