Breast epithelial cells stained for DNA (magenta) and actin (green). Julia Sero / the ICR.
A greater number of breast cancers are genetically similar to rarer cases with faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, according to research from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and The Institute of Cancer Research, London.
The findings, published today in Nature Medicine, suggest that up to 20% of women could be treated with PARP inhibitors, a class of drug previously only thought to work if people had an inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
Professor Andrew Tutt, Director of the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre at the ICR, and an author on the study, said: “PARP inhibitors are innovative and promising treatments for breast and ovarian cancer. Thanks to research carried out here at the ICR we can target the treatment to people with specific rarer genetic forms of these diseases. In these people, special forms of DNA repair don’t work in the tumour creating an ‘Achilles heel’ which PARP inhibitors can attack.
“This new study suggests that PARP inhibitors might ultimately benefit many more breast cancer patients, as the group of patients with this ‘Achilles heel’ in DNA repair appears larger than had been thought.
“The next step would be to examine these tests in clinical trials that assess the use of PARP inhibitors in women with non-genetic forms of breast cancer who have the signatures described in this study. We can then establish whether they gain similar benefits to those with inherited breast cancer.
“There is much work still to do but we think this study is a significant step forward and shows the benefits of the collaborative work between the ICR and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.”
Read the original story on the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute website.