Breast Cancer Study Helps Researchers Better Understand the Disease

For one in five women the family history written into their genes increases their risk of being diagnosed by almost a third

These new genetic variations, we will probably answer, " stresses Dr. Jocelyne Chiquette, clinician at the Centre for breast diseases at Quebec, which is one of the authors of the study.

Pinpointing specific genes is hard, but the OncoArray scientists were able to make predictions about many target genes - a first step towards designing new treatments.

Most of the variants found by OncoArray were not found within genes, but rather within regions of the genome that regulate the activity of nearby genes.

"Scientists are not in competition against each other", said professor Peter Kraft of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A further seven genes were identified specifically in association with breast cancers that lacked oestrogen receptors, which don't tend to respond to hormone based therapies.

Others, known as oestrogen-receptor negative, are not affected by the hormone and are more hard to treat. She hopes that discoveries made in this research will someday lead to better and less harsh treatments for breast cancer, for instance, treating people with a targeted probiotic instead of chemotherapy.

"We get grant funding through pharmaceutical companies and donations like the New Brunswick Fire Department", said Dorothy Reed, president and co-founder of the Sisters Network "It's hard economic times for everyone so when somebody just gives you a donation it's really a blessing".

While 41 percent of those receiving conventional treatment for lung cancer survive for at least five years, only 20 percent of those opting for alternative medicines do so, the research adds. It also increases the risk of ovarian cancer to a lesser degree.

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The combined effect of these variants is likely to be "considerable" said the researchers.

Scientists behind the study say that the results will help them identify relatives of breast cancer patients who may be themselves at risk for developing the cancer.

"I had genetic testing and I was negative for all the genetic testing", Moeller said.

Two new studies published Monday in the journals Nature and Nature Genetics revealed 72 previously unknown genetic risk factors - or gene mutations - that lead to the development of breast cancer.

'These women may benefit from more intensive screening, starting at a younger age, or using more sensitive screening techniques, allowing early detection and prevention of the disease'.

"No-one could explain to me why I was getting cancer if I, you know, wasn't genetically set up", she said.

"But there are other risk factors". Nationally, October is breast cancer awareness month and Brown's wants to help support the cause locally by mobilizing the entire organization.

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