Breakthrough as scientists discover gene linked to half of all cases
Scientists announced a major breakthrough in the battle against breast cancer yesterday after discovering a faulty gene involved in half of all cases of the disease which kills 12,000 women in the UK every year.
The gene – called NRG1 – is also implicated in 50 per cent of bowel and prostate cancers and a quarter of cancers of the ovary and bladder. Cancer charities hailed the find as a ‘major step forward’ and one of the most important developments in cancer gene research in the last 20 years.
Dr Paul Edwards, of the department of pathology at the University of Cambridge, who discovered the faulty gene, said it provided ‘vital information’ about how some cancers spread. The fault does not appear to be hereditary and is not passed on from parents to children.
On its own, the discovery is unlikely to lead to new types of drugs or treatments for cancers. But scientists hope it will give them a much greater understanding of how healthy cells turn bad and how some cancers can be stopped in their tracks.
Dr Edwards said: ‘I believe NRG1 could be the most important tumour suppressor gene discovery in the last 20 years as it gives us vital information about a new mechanism that causes breast cancer.’
Arlene Wilkie, of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: ‘This research is a major step forward in understanding the genetics of cancer.’