Breast cancer linked to bacteria

Breast cancer linked to bacteria

The studies, reported today in the journals Nature and Nature Genetics, identified 72 common variants that predispose to breast cancer. Dr. Eng says the next step is to look at whether they could target the bacteria that is specifically in the breast cancer tissue with treatment, or even better, pinpoint the problem area and target it before the breast cancer has a chance to develop.

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

University of Toronto researchers have helped identify 72 new genetic variants that contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer as part of a major global collaboration involving hundreds of researchers worldwide.

The OncoArray Consortium project involved 550 researchers from around 300 different institutions on six continents.

The majority of the variants found were not found within genes, but within regions of the genome that regulate the activity of nearby genes.


Providing doctors with a better understanding of breast cancer risk may change the advice they give to individual women about the age they should start mammograms and how often they have them. When the researchers looked at the pattern of these genetic regions, they discovered that this differed from that of those regions involved in predisposition to other common diseases. The inherited component of breast cancer risk is due to a combination of rare variants in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that confer a high risk of the disease, and many more common genetic variants that each confers only a small risk.

Around 70 per cent of all breast cancers are fuelled by the sex hormone oestrogen and respond to hormone therapies such as tamoxifen. The newly identified risk regions almost double the number that are already known, thereby bringing the number of known common variants associated with breast cancer to around 180. However, not all cancer cells carry this receptor - these are known as oestrogen-receptor negative.

The co-ordinator of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Berghofer's Genetics and Computational Biology Department, Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench, said the study found 65 genetic variants that predisposed women to an overall risk of breast cancer. But because they are common and their effects multiply together, the combined effect is considerable. For the study, researchers examined the tissues of 78 patients who underwent mastectomies related to breast cancer.

Another study author says a small number of women who have several of these smaller genetic mutations can face a three-times increased risk of breast cancer.

She hopes this will lead to improved screening and prevention strategies for at- risk women in the future.

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